Sheriff Dart on laundry, gardens and human trafficking

11/21/2011 10:58 AM

By AmySue Mertens

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I attended Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s annual Women for Dart Luncheon last week. I was already a fan of the former prosecutor and state legislator. Now that I’ve heard about all that his office has been up to, I like him even more.

As societal ills shift, so do the Sheriff’s priorities. He spent time last week updating us on his push to evaluate foreclosure evictions, and his de-criminalizing prostitution while actively going after pimps. He’s also talked about the need for better mental health services for his inmates. Cook County Jail has so many mental health detainees that it serves as the largest mental health hospital in Illinois, and the second largest in the United States.

Dart recently decided to drop an outside vendor and bring laundry services in-house to save tax-payer dollars. He went a step further by granting the laundry responsibilities to the jail’s military veteran population. The service is run like a company, with the vets gaining marketable business knowledge. Perhaps more important than that, he assigned them their own ward in the jail to foster the camaraderie built during their military service.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the sadness I felt hearing that there are enough incarcerated veterans to necessitate their own ward.

He has grown the well-known Sheriff’s Cook County Jail Garden from one to three. The original is now more than 13,000 square feet and has become so successful that the produce is sold to restaurants like Charlie Trotter’s. The new gardens are managed by the men’s boot camp and the women’s detention center. All three are operated by inmates in Master Gardener training, building their self-esteem and providing them with job skills upon release.

I’ve attended a number of the Fall Harvest events where the detainees receive their Master Gardener certificates. Some graduates have tearfully said it was the first time they felt someone--the Sheriff--was proud of them. Others have marked it as their first educational achievement, having been Chicago Public School drop outs. The Sheriff always finds a way of saying that in taking responsibility for themselves in the garden, the men learn ways of taking care of themselves in life.

But I’ve lulled us into a false sense of security here. Dart is also candid about the most horrific duties of his office including those involving children.

Last week his focus was human trafficking. The Chicago area has the fifth largest volume of human trafficking calls in the United States. Dart spoke about a West Side prostitution call his department made where they met a young girl who had clearly been trafficked. Although his office worked hard to get her back to the neighboring state from where she was lured, the story for the young girl doesn’t end well. She disappeared from what should have been a safe house and is still missing without a trace. The Sheriff carries that with him everywhere, including to that Women for Dart luncheon.

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By kathy Daley from Chicago
Posted: 11/22/2011 4:54 AM

Here is your hero amy! Tom Dart lays off janitors with mental disibilities but hires this former prostitute who has been shot 5 times and stabbed 13 times.

By Kathy Daley from chicago.
Posted: 11/22/2011 4:45 AM

Here is your hero amy. And you wonder why his lobbiest brother made 1.2 million last year. Sheriff D gave a $250,000 computer contract to a company named Computer Bits, Inc. Computer Bits is owned by harmeni$$ nephew of legendary 19th ward bagman EHarmen$$$. When Sheriff D was building his new house on Homan, all of the electrical work was supplied and paid for by J Harmen$$$. It's what is called a kickback.

By Kathy Daley from chicago
Posted: 11/22/2011 4:42 AM

continued Once we we were cut from Sheriff's Dart's budget we all saw the handwriting on the wall. Jim D'Ami&& has been working behind the scenes with the Sheriff Da%*'s lobbiest brother to push for the the multi-million dollar private custodial contract according to a source. We believe we were sold out by the highest bidder. I earn 34k a year as a janitor supporting 3 kids. I will not go down without a fight and unless this is investigated.

By Kathy Daley from chicago
Posted: 11/22/2011 4:39 AM

Among the layoffs are 282 from Preckwinkle's administration, including 180 custodial positions due to "managed competition." Here is the story behind the story. Up untill a year ago we were under the Sheriff's department budget for over 25 years. That was untill Sheriff Dart decided that we were less important than newly hired prostitues and cut us from his budget. We landed under facilities management controlled by president preckwinkle and Jim D’Ami$$ (. Once we we were cut from Sheriff'.

By Kathy Daley from Chicago
Posted: 11/22/2011 4:31 AM

200 Janitors are getting laid off to save Tom Darts 13 Million Dollar womens Justice program. The Jainors were under the Sheriff for 25 years until Dart cut them to privatize. Now one person will get rich while they pay the janitors minimum wage. Get a clue amy. Almost 25% percent of the janitors are mentally handicapped. Sheriff Michael Sheahan gave an opportutinty for many with mental disibilities and they are getting laid off to save Tom Darts publicity hounding programs.

By Kathy Daley from Chicago
Posted: 11/22/2011 4:15 AM

Has Sheriff Dart ever solved a real crime or does he just grandstand. Puppies, drones, graves, evictions, hiring prostitues. He loves to see himself on tv, thats for sure.

By Kathy Daley
Posted: 11/22/2011 4:14 AM

Has Sheriff Dart ever solved a real crime or does he just grandstand. Puppies, drones, graves, evictions, hiring prostitues. He loves to see himself on tv, thats for sure.

By Nita Belles
Posted: 11/21/2011 9:28 PM

Great article! I just reposted it on my Facebook page for my book "In Our Backyard: A Christian Perspective on Human Trafficking in the United States."

By Leticia from Ravenswood
Posted: 11/21/2011 8:30 PM

Nicely written Amy!