Probation Officers Needed to Cope with Bail Reform
So says Cook County’s top judge, who wants to add 70 positions next year in order to reduce the burden on the circuit court system that must monitor alleged criminals before they go to trial. Chief Judge Timothy Evans intends to devote additional funds to oversight in 2020, provided county supervisors approve his proposed $265 million budget. The Illinois Supreme Court also is contributing to reduce PO caseloads that have risen by 40 percent since the county undertook bail reforms two years ago. They include curfews and electronic tagging, as well as a regime for violent offenders that has seen a 90-percent rise in the number of no-bail orders issued by circuit court judges.
Basing the request on an independent review of the circuit court’s Adult Probation Department, Evans says POs should handle no more than 50 cases each for the department to function optimally. At present, the average is 134 per officer thanks to the county’s adoption of a risk-assessed methodology to set bail. Prompted by a summer wave of gun violence, politicians and cops in the Windy City slammed changes that are aimed at limiting disruption to families and communities. However, statistics cited by the judge’s office show that the overwhelming number of those on pre-trial release do not re-offend. It says that the county’s daily jail population has halved in the wake of reforms.