A key committee of the Chicago City Council put forth a money-saving proposal to bring non-violent offenders from Cook County Jail to clean animal cages at the city pound.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the Workforce Development and Audit Committee approved the plan Wednesday, which would bring sixteen inmates to the animal facility from 8 a.m. to noon every day. In addition to cleaning cages, they'd provide food and water, but would have no contact with the animals themselves.
The deal would cost the city $231,000 in payment to the Sheriff's Department for running the program, but would save considerably more in overtime the city currently pays to Animal Care and Control employees.
“We gotta get creative in getting out of this budget situation," Alderman Brendan Reilly said, according to WLS. "Providing some folks with some job skills and some discipline is a good thing, while also providing some relief for taxpayers."
Cherie Travis, the executive director of Animal Care and Control, described some of the department's staffing shortfall in remarks quoted by the Chicago Sun-Times: “We face staffing shortages on a daily basis. … We had no one to come in … from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Christmas Day to clean and take care of the animals," she said.
In addition to alleviating staff problems at ACC, the program would help inmates, Alderman Will Burns said in the Sun-Times. “This is a great idea to provide real training opportunities for people while they’re incarcerated,” he said.
The inmates would be supervised by sheriff's department staff, and searched before and after their shifts. Most of them would be serving time for driving on suspended licenses.