Federal oversight of Cook County jail ends after decades

Jun 13, 2017


The Cook County Jail is no longer under federal monitoring after a federal judge lifted a consent decree.

A Department of Justice report in 2008 found the jail had failing grades for detainee safety, medical care and cleanliness.


Credit Jeff Roberson / AP Photo

It led to a consent decree in 2010 with a federal judge overseeing conditions.

Since that time, the jail has invested millions improving safety by adding cameras, hiring more correctional officers and enhancing its medical care.


"It was not easy. It was a lot of work to get there and it was very expensive as well," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said. "We’ve turned what was a jail that has a lot of issues and a lot of consent decrees into a one that is now considered a model for the country."


According to Dart, the jail has been under some form of federal monitoring since the 70s.


Late last week, a federal judge ended that monitoring --- saying the jail is meeting all standards for inmate safety.


The Chicago-based John Howard Association served as the court- appointed monitor of the jail until 2009. Director Jennifer Vollen-Katz says court monitoring helped improve conditions there a lot.


"You can’t really have accountability without transparency. Corrections by definition is a closed system," Vollen-Katz said. "So we have to work hard to create that transparency and push for that accountability. "