CCBF Testifies About Electronic Monitoring at the County Board

Today, CCBF testified at the county board meeting about the the impact of the Sheriff’s unconstitutional policy of reviewing and refusing the respect the release decisions made by bond court judges, which was raised in a resolution put forward by Commissioner Boykin.

Our remarks were well received. Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle commended the “good work” we are doing and made encouragingremarks in favor of the class action lawsuit against Sheriff Dart. You can read the statments made today here: 

“Hello, my name is Matthew McLoughlin and I’m the Director of Programs for the Chicago Community Bond Fund. In the last two and a half years, we have posted nearly $700,000 in bond to free 128 people from Cook County Jail and Electronic Monitoring. 

I am testifying about the impact of the Sheriff’s Office policies addressed by Commissioner Boykin’s resolution on Chicago residents and their families. 

In the last 2 and half years, CCBF has posted bond for 32 people with charges involving guns, and 97% of them have returned to all their court dates and not been re-arrested. None were re-arrested on new charges involving weapons. These statistics show what providing support in the community—as opposed to surveillance and punishment—can accomplish.

On Friday February 23rd. Chicago Community Bond Fund posted a $5,000 bond for Taphia W to be released from the jail and brought home on electronic monitoring.

The next evening, we received a call from Taphia’s brother explaining that she still had not been brought home by the Sheriff’s Office.

On Monday, February 26th, I called the jail and was told by a supervisor in the records department that she had been placed under “administrative review” by the Sheriff’s Department. Taphia wasn’t brought home until the early morning of Tuesday, February 25th, more than three full days after we posted her bond.

Since then, I have spoken with several other families who posted bond for their loved ones only to find that Sheriff Dart refused to release them in a normal, timely manner, despite a court order granting them release. In some cases, people were only been released after civil rights attorneys attempted to hold the Sheriff in contempt for his violation of the court’s orders. 

Next to taking someone’s life, putting a person in jail and taking their liberty away is one of the most serious actions the government can take. That is why we require such decisions be made in open court by a judge, and subject to immediate appeal. Sheriff Dart is now unilaterally making those decisions without oversight or direction, and in contradiction to reform efforts endorsed by all other stakeholders. 

We are alarmed by Sheriff Dart’s recent actions. Cook County has made considerable strides towards a more just pretrial system in the last year, and Sheriff Dart’s policies are a major setback. Not only are people being denied their constitutional right to release as determined by a judge, but Cook County is now sitting on thousands of dollars in bond posted by some Chicago’s most marginalized communities while those people’s loved ones sit in Cook County Jail, also at great taxpayer expense. We greatly appreciate this body’s support of bond reform and hope you will continue to work to protect the rights of all people facing criminal charges in Cook County.”

“Good afternoon, my name is Irene Romulo and I am the director of advocacy at the Chicago Community Bond Fund. The Chicago Community Bond Fund pays bond for people in Cook County who cannot afford to pay their own bonds and advocates for a fairer pretrial justice system. I am responding to Commissioner Boykin’s resolution calling for an investigation into electronic monitoring and bond reform. Three weeks ago, Sheriff Dart announced that he would begin unconstitutionally detaining people who have been cleared for release by judges based on his own unilateral review of their cases. 

By defying court orders, Sheriff Dart is exceeding the scope of the Sheriff’s role and usurping the power of the courts to make bail decisions. He is unilaterally depriving legally innocent people of their freedom without regard to mitigating evidence presented in court. The Sheriff also sent selective, unsubstantiated data to newspapers with the goal of instilling fear and rolling back the progress Cook County has made in reducing the number of people incarcerated at the jail due to unaffordable money bonds.

Since the announcement of these reviews, there has been a federal lawsuit filed against the Sheriff’s Office for delaying release and refusing to release a class of individuals cleared for release by judges. Public Defender Amy Campanelli and several prominent civil rights lawyers have publicly admonished Sheriff Dart for his actions, which threaten to result in civil rights settlements against the county. 

Given the negative impact that Sheriff Dart’s actions have on individuals who are being deprived of their freedom and the pending lawsuit, any investigation into the Electronic Monitoring program should include an assessment of the liability Cook County now faces for Sheriff Dart’s unconstitutional detention of people who have already been ordered released pretrial.”

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