Chicago, IL

Cook County Jail in Chicago Issues Ban on All Paper Items Brought in by Visitors

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Following a number of overdoses, Cook County Detention Center prohibits paper from being brought into the jail, including legal documents
Cook County Jail, one of the largest jails in the countryPhoto byStephen Hogan/flickr [CC BY 2.0]

In an attempt to enhance security measures by restricting the flow of drugs coming into the facility, Cook County Jail has recently implemented a new policy that prohibits visitors from bringing paper items during their visits. This significant change in visitor guidelines aims to streamline the entry process, reduce potential security risks, and ensure the safety of all individuals within the facility.

The Cook County Jail is one of the largest correctional facilities in the United States, housing on average over 9000 inmates at a time and receiving numerous visitors each day. Recognizing the need for heightened security, the administration has made the decision to restrict the entry of paper items, a move that aligns with similar policies in other correctional facilities nationwide.

Pointing to drug overdoses inside the Cook County Jail Sheriff, Tom Dart said they are preventing all jail visitors including attorneys from bringing paper into the jail. The new police is intended to stop inmate access to paper soaked with illegal narcotics, rat poison, and bug killer among other potentially dangerous or deadly substances. Dart would not provide the number of overdose deaths due to drug laced paper.

According to a spokesperson, “Cook County Jail has experienced a concerning rise in the discovery of such contraband and the significant harm it can cause. Jail policies and procedures must adapt, as they always have, to the ever-evolving ways in which individuals attempt to introduce dangerous contraband.”

A statement from Dart's office says that attorneys will be provided with computers and if absolutely necessary, they can bring in legal documents providing an appointment has been made ahead of time to thoroughly examine the items. However, in messages to colleagues, deputy public defender, Amy Thompson, wrote that the jail was “not allowing ANY paper to be brought to ANY division.

Critics argue that addressing overdose deaths cannot come at a cost of preventing intellectual freedom and access to learning.

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