Treatment instead of jail time

Approximately 20% of those in the Cook County Jail have been arrested for non-violent offenses and require mental health services. Detaining these individuals delays or interrupts much-needed treatment for the underlying causes of illness. In addition, unnecessary detainment increases the jail population and poses a significant cost to taxpayers.

A group of criminal justice stakeholders--- the Cook County Board President, Sheriff, Chicago Police Department, Chief Judge, State's Attorney, Public Defender, Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts, and treatment providers Thresholds and TASC --- wanted to reduce the detention of the mentally ill. The stakeholders asked the Cook County Public Defender to convene a working group with representatives from each of their organizations.

With support from the Civic Consulting Alliance, the working group researched best practices in releasing mentally ill individuals and identified one critical gap: insufficient verified information regarding detainees' mental health history. The working group then made recommendations for improving the processes to collect, verify, and present detainees' information to bond court judges. Many of these recommendations are already being implemented.

With better, more timely data, judges can now more confidently make decisions on whether to detain or release an individual for treatment at the bond hearing. Our hope is that the new processes will allow bond court judges to safely release up to 75% of individuals identified as having mental health treatment needs, reducing the cost and improving the quality of treatment received.

For more information on this project, please contact Andy Schwarm.

It was exciting to see all the stakeholders coming to every meeting full of new ideas. Civic Consulting Alliance's skill in providing an environment and structure for effective collaboration helped generate some truly impactful solutions.

Amy Campanelli


Cook County Public Defender