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Rape prompts alderman to call for hearings on electronic monitoring

Incensed by a pregnant student’s rape, an influential alderman is demanding City Council hearings that he hopes could lead to Sheriff Tom Dart taking over the county’s fragmented electronic monitoring of prisoners.

Anthony Beale (9th) — alarmed that a juvenile on electronic monitoring allegedly raped a pregnant Chicago State University student last month — is calling for hearings into whether state-mandated guidelines are needed for agencies with electronic monitoring programs.

The sheriff, the Circuit Court of Cook County Probation Department, the Circuit Court of Cook County Juvenile Justice Department and the Illinois Department of Corrections are responsible for electronic monitoring of offenders returned to communities in Chicago, Beale said.

Beale, whose ward is home to the raped Chicago State student, said Thursday he was horrified to learn multiple agencies are responsible for electronic monitoring in Chicago, “none of which talk to each other.” Some don’t monitor offenders on weekends, he said.

“I am absolutely fuming,” Beale said. “It makes me sick to my stomach knowing this young lady didn’t have to go through what she went through if somebody had been doing their job and monitoring this predator.”

Beale said he spoke to Chicago Police officials who said people wearing electronic monitoring devices are arrested every day.

“A lot of these people are repeat offenders being unleashed on our communities and not being monitored,” he said. “We have to get a handle on this.”

After talking to all of the agencies, Beale said he’s convinced Dart’s system is the best one for monitoring prisoners because of changes he made over the years.

Cara Smith, the sheriff’s executive director of the Cook County Jail, said Dart would consider taking over electronic monitoring for the other county agencies.

Dart’s office has about 2,000 people on electronic monitoring.

“We are 24/7,” she said. “We respond to violations immediately. We triage them. High-risk offenders, we send a car out. Low-risk offenders, we start out with a phone call.”

Other agencies, such as juvenile probation, operate Monday through Friday, Smith said.

“There is a gross disparity in the protocols for monitoring offenders,” she said. “The sheriff is certainly open to expanding his practices across all county agencies.”

Beale, the former head of the Police and Fire Committee, acknowledged that Chicago aldermen have no jurisdiction over electronic monitoring programs, even though their residents have much at stake.

But he argued that City Council hearings could put the heat on the agencies involved to get their acts together in a way that could reduce violent crime in inner-city neighborhoods where most offenders are unleashed.

Cook County Chief Judge Tim Evans, who runs the adult and juvenile probation programs, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.