Thomas J. Dart
Democratic candidate for Sheriff
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As Cook County Sheriff, I have brought an innovative approach to law enforcement which resulted in me being named one of Governing Magazine's Public Officials of the Year for 2017.
As a former prosecutor and state legislator, I have long fought to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. Since becoming Sheriff in 2006, I have introduced sweeping changes at the Cook County Jail, aggressively re-structured the Sheriff's Police force to address gun violence in city and the scourge of human trafficking, improved operations of eviction process to insure thoughtful treatment of tenants and landlords.
From addressing concerns surrounding general overcrowding and a growing mental health population, to developing environmentally sustainable initiatives for inmates, the Sheriff's Office has won praise for progressive reforms to improve and maintain the safety and security of all those housed and employed at the Cook County Jail.
In 2013, we launched the Office of Mental Health Policy & Advocacy, which operates a 24-hour Care Line for mentally ill ex-inmates and families of current mentally ill inmates, while screening all pre-bond detainees for mental illness. This effort has become a national model for treatment of mentally ill in jail. We have received many awards from national and local mental health advocacy organizations for our push to end what has become a de facto criminalization of mental illness. Another program that the Sheriff Office has established is the Restoring Neighborhoods Workforce initiative (RENEW).
RENEW trains inmates in deconstruction techniques using curriculum developed by the Building Materials Reuse Association. Participants also receive an OSHA 10 work site safety certification. Participants work on crews deconstructing abandoned and vacant houses that plague distressed communities across the county — communities that can't afford to demolish the homes without such help. Through this, inmates give back to the community and develop skills that are marketable to employers while neighborhoods see improved property values and reduced crime.
Additionally, the Sheriff's Office began the expansion of its jail garden, the harvest of honey from on-site bee hives. These projects offer inmates the opportunity to gain valuable and marketable skills that can be utilized upon release, with the produce bringing in revenue and turning a profit for county taxpayers.
These efforts resulted in the Sheriff's Office recently being released from a more than 40 year-old federal consent decree on the operations of Cook County Jail and a positive profile of the jail that aired on 60 Minutes earlier this year.
Candidates for Sheriff