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Sheriff Dart suspends Cook County boot camp director, six other officials

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart | Sun-Times MediLibrary

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart | Sun-Times Media Library

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Updated: January 22, 2014 6:12AM

Sheriff Tom Dart has suspended the director of the boot camp at the Cook County Jail and six other officials for their lax monitoring of inmates who completed the program, an aide to the sheriff said Friday.

The director, John Harrington, was issued a five-day unpaid suspension. Three supervisors received three-day unpaid suspensions, and three case workers were given one-day unpaid suspensions.

More than 50 people work at the boot camp located on the sprawling jail campus near 26th and California.

“The program only works with strong supervision,” said Frank Bilecki, the Dart aide. “For years there was strong supervision. Unfortunately, recently, this was not the case.”

Harrington declined to comment Friday.

Last month, the Chicago Sun-Times reported on the sheriff’s efforts to tighten up supervision at the boot camp after an internal review found problems. The Sun-Times also reported that judges were improperly sentencing hundreds of violent offenders to boot camp.

Recently, Dart sent a letter to judges asking them to confirm the eligibility of inmates sentenced to boot camp. Some judges have acknowledged the sentences were improper and have agreed to resentence those inmates.

Boot camp is a four-month military-style program intended for nonviolent offenders.

Inmates participate in vocational training and attend courses with the goal of obtaining a GED or continuing their education after receiving a high school diploma.

Once they complete boot camp, inmates are placed on eight months of supervision.

In the past, they were placed on house arrest and electronic monitoring during the first month of supervision. In the remaining seven months of their supervision, electronic monitoring and house arrest were lifted. They were supposed to report regularly to counselors and submit to random drug tests.

Now, nearly all the inmates on supervision are required to wear electronic monitoring bracelets. They’re encouraged to obtain jobs or enroll in school outside the boot camp. If they don’t, they are required to come to the boot camp as many as three days a week to take classes or continue their job training.

They’re also required to participate in community-service projects, Bilecki said.

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