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Home > Press Page

Wednesday, February 2, 2011— Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart has declared a civil emergency at the Cook County Jail - a move that allows him to direct staff from other sheriff’s department functions to the jail. This move comes on the heels of the lockdown status Dart declared on Tuesday.

All moves are being carried out due to the impact of the massive winter storm.

A civil emergency is an administrative function that can be called when any conditions are created which are beyond the control of the department. The severe winter storm has, at varying times, caused issues with electricity, heating and manpower at the jail.

In the last 24 hours, power has gone out at a maximum security division and at the boot camp, while the flickering of lights has been reported in all 11 buildings throughout the 96-acre jail campus. All buildings now have power, but available staff remains an issue.

The lockdown of the jail, which went into effect at 3 p.m. Tuesday, means there is minimal movement of detainees and no visits are allowed by family or friends. That will remain in effect until at least 7 a.m. Thursday.

There has not been a civil emergency declared by the Cook County Sheriff in more than 30 years, possibly not since the blizzard of 1979.

In addition to this declaration, Dart has been shifting detectives, gang officers and other specialized police officers to assist patrol officers in serving residents throughout suburban Cook County. 

With all suburban court operations suspended on Wednesday and Thursday – except for a limited bond court at 26th Street – declaring a civil emergency allows for greater flexibility in deploying available court deputies and other staff to needed areas.

Correcting an earlier figure provided, the actual number of correctional officers normally available on a shift to secure 9,000 inmates is roughly 591. This civil emergency will allow the Cook County Sheriff's Office to bring jail staffing levels closer to that average figure, and fill in other critical administrative functions, while the storm affects operations.

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