Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart raises concerns about change in electronic monitoring program

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is raising some serious concerns about a recent change to the county's electronic monitoring program.

On Jan. 1, Illinois' new SAFE-T Act took effect, a provision of which allows defendants on electronic monitoring to move freely at least two days per week.

The intention behind this was to allow them to do essential things like job-hunting and buying groceries, but Dart's office reports some defendants are going right back to bad behavior.

"I cannot for the life of me cannot figure out how this is helpful, how this makes sense I’ve heard nothing," said Dart. 

His office says more than 20 defendants have already been rearrested while on "essential movement," for committing crimes like armed robbery, retail theft, and gun violations.

"These are folks that the judges were concerned enough that they were actually thinking of keeping them incarcerated but said ok, I’m going to let you go out in the community instead," said Dart. "Now there is going to be this two-day period where people can do what they want with no one monitoring them. I just don’t understand how that helps."

But the Cook County Public Defender's Office disputes that claim, saying suspects have their GPS monitors on and connected at all times, and the vast majority of them use 'essential movement' the way it's supposed to be used: doctor's appointments, grocery shopping, job-seeking, and attending classes.


"I think that these reforms are essential for protecting the rights of people, who again, have not been found guilty of anything," said Sharone Mitchell Jr. Cook County Public Defender Sharone Mitchell, Jr.  "As the numbers tell it, a significant portion of those people will be found not guilty."

Mitchell says "essential movement" is just that: essential, even if someone's been accused of a crime.

"We want people to be able to have jobs. We want people to go to the doctor. That helps us build healthy and stable communities, not somebody who is stuck in the house for two years waiting for their criminal case," Mitchell said.

Although the roughly two dozen arrestees since Jan.1 only make up 1 percent of total defendants on home confinement, Sheriff Dart says "essential movement" should be scrapped for all violent offenders in Cook County.