CBS 60 Minutes

This is Jail? The many inmate classes at Cook County Jail

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says jails have become a dumping ground for the poor

May 22, 2017

There's a pizzeria in Chicago that prides itself on authentic ingredients. The flour for the dough comes from Italy. The pomodoro and fresh mozzarella? Also from Italy. The olive oil drizzled on top? Straight from Tuscany. Then the pies get cooked in a brick oven that's white with green mosaic tiles, which spell out "recipe for a change."

After all, that's exactly what the cooking program at Cook County Jail aspires to be.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart began the program, along with several others, to give inmates the opportunity to learn new skills they can use after they're released.

"My goal all along was [to] have a program for every detainee that comes through here," Dart says in the video above, "the program being: to get them to change their lives."

This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Lesley Stahl interviews Dart about running Cook County Jail, one of the largest jails in the country. A former prosecutor who's been elected and re-elected sheriff since 2006, Dart is unconventional, often sounding more like a defense attorney than an incarcerator. 

Dart says the jail — with a population today of about 7,500 — has become a dumping ground for the poor and mentally ill. For most inmates, Dart says, the biggest problem is they simply don't have enough money to make bail. As a result, inmates often spend their entire prison term in the Cook County Jail — sometimes more time than their sentence.


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