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Cook County Jail Population Sees A Record Low

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The Cook County Sheriff's Office said the number of inmates in county jail is the lowest it's been in decades.

In recent years, Cook County jail was bursting at the seams with more than 10,000 detainees - some of them forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor. The number dropped Thursday to around 5,900.

The Cook County Sheriff's Office Chief Policy Officer Cara Smith said that number is the lowest in recorded history. She said the population has been dropping for some time due to fewer arrests.

"The jail is being used more appropriately now and not being used to criminalize those who are poor," Smith said.

A drop off of about 1,500 in the jail population happened since September when Chief Judge Tim Evans ordered that affordable bails be set for nonviolent felonies.

Meanwhile, Smith said fewer detainees means the Sheriff's Office is saving money on overtime for corrections officers.

"With fewer detainees we have been able to close buildings and need fewer officers to cover those buildings and certainly that helps with overtime," she said.

Smith said there are still about 150 detainees behind bars because their bails were set before the new directive on "affordable" bails. She said the inmates can petition for lower bail amounts, but judges, generally, do not like to re-set bails set by other judges.

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