Tags: Chicago | guns | jails | inmates

Chicago Wants New Gun Laws, but Has no Room for New Inmates

Saturday, 16 Feb 2013 11:43 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Image: Chicago Wants New Gun Laws, but Has no Room for New Inmates
The maximum security dormitory at the Cook County Department of Corrections in Chicago. (AP Photo)
Chicago's mayor and police chief want mandatory minimum sentences for people who commit gun violations, adding more punishment in a city with some of the toughest gun laws in the country, but county and state lockups are already at full capacity, law enforcement officials warn.

This past week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called for even tougher gun laws, CBS News reports, and Police Superintendent Gary McCarthy says “gun offenders have to do significant jail time.”

However, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said he doesn't have enough cells to hold inmates, and there is not enough room in the state prison system.

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Illinois has been closing prisons to save money and reduce the $9 billion it owes in unpaid bills, and the prisons and jails that are left are full.

“We are at capacity right now” Dart said. “The state prison system is beyond capacity. You talk to them right now, they haven't had a population like this in decades.”

The Cook County jail is the largest in the country, but it's so crowded now that some inmates are living in a former cafeteria, and others are sleeping on the facility hospital's floor.

“This should be a building that we should have empty right now at this time of the year,” Dart said. “There should be no one in it. But because of our population explosion, this is full."

If mandatory minimum sentences are passed for gun violations, the prison population would swell, but Dart says there is no place for the swell of inmates to go.

“We can't have this irrational type of notion that there's magic jail cells all over the place that are all sitting there empty, " said Dart. "It's as if all of a sudden we just raise penalties and these people get shipped off to the moon or something.”

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