Inmate Guide

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Cook County Jail Inmates

Life in jail is different from life in prison though some say that the Cook County Jail is like a prison in itself. Jail experiences vary from inmate to inmate where one may be looking at probation for a minor traffic offense while another is looking towards life for murder. One inmate may belong to a street gang, which makes the jail experience smoother as members often watch out for other members. And another inmate may be terrified and experience large amounts of violence and hatred. But what is jail really like?

What is Cook County Jail really like?
Somewhere between nine thousand and eleven thousand inmates reside in Cook County in a single day. Due to the high amount, often times inmates are released on good behavior. This can be anywhere from half a sentence cut to a few days or weeks cut. This behavior policy is the most assertive in the United States. Of these inmates only those that fight, use illegal drugs, or commit other serious offenses while incarcerated are maintained for the full sentence. A credit system for the amount of time served is given as well as time off for good behavior.

The Inmates
Now no two inmates are alike though many are grouped in numbered blocks according to the sentenced offense. According to previous inmates, some decks are very clean while others not so much. Upon arrival to Cook County Jail inmates are given new clothing, which can vary in color according to security level and gender, but always the uniforms resemble hospital scrubs that consist of DOC pants and shirt. A new set in obtained weekly and underclothing and socks are bought at the commissary.

While meals are occasionally a positive event, for some inmates meals are uneventful. Meals vary from day to day but no matter what is served there are always three a day. Inmates are woken up very early in the morning for a breakfast of cereal, eggs, milk, and bread. Lunch is simple and is often nothing more than a sandwich of bologna and a fruit drink. Dinner is the largest meal and includes vegetables, a meat entrée, bread and butter, and sometimes a dessert. Snacks are only obtained at the commissary. But what happens outside mealtime?

Activities throughout the day vary from block to block and comply according to an inmate's desires. TV is present around the clock and a library offers reading materials. Many previous inmates reported that playing cards was a common pastime as well as sleeping. Exercise, basketball, and a weight room are always available to those motivated or simply walking about to pass the time. Others choose to pass out meal trays or sweep. Depending on the offense, some inmates are allowed yard time once or twice a week while others never leave the facility. Church serves are also offered in different faiths. Visitors are allowed once a week for half hour periods.

Outside of meals and pastimes, inmates of the option of find trouble or accidentally having trouble find them. Many inmates simply keep to themselves to avoid trouble. Some do not talk to others nor make eye contact to remain safe. Staying out of trouble in the biggest task as many inmates have been to Cook County several times and are serving multiple sentences in a row. In the end some do not mind Cook County while others cannot wait to leave the experience behind.