CHICAGO
08/22/2013 02:17 pm ET

With Cook County Jail At Near-Full Capacity, Sheriff Says 'The Logistics Part Is A Nightmare'

The Cook County Jail is just a few inmates shy of being at full capacity, creating what the sheriff is calling a logistics "nightmare."

As of Wednesday, the Cook County Jail was at 98 percent capacity, housing more than 10,000 people, 680 of them living in cramped minimum security dorms, according to ABC Chicago. That's a higher population than the jail has seen in six years.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said the sheer volume of inmates poses huge logistical challenges. "Just trying to move people and feed them is a nightmare," Dart said.

In July, however, Dart told CBS the spike in summer crime was thankfully smaller than anticipated.

“These numbers are, God they’re hard, they’re really hard on our staff,” Dart said in July. “I actually had feared it was going to be a lot worse right now. If we can get through toward the end of September, we’ll be okay.”

In March, before the traditionally higher summer crime wave, the jail was just eight inmates away from full capacity.

When things get too crowded, Dart said he's forced to ship inmates to other counties -- a move ABC reports is actually cheaper. A day in Cook County lockup costs $143 per inmate compared to just $55 outside the county.

The capacity-busting jail population is due to an uptick in arrests thanks to the Chicago Police Department's crime crackdown initiatives, though, as the Sun-Times noted in March, the jail population is also swelling due to slow turnover and a sluggish justice system.

ABC reports Dart and some Cook County judges have been pushing for GPS ankle monitoring for non-violent offenders. There are roughly 1,400 people currently on ankle monitoring devices in the county.

Additionally, Dart said when the county closes mental health facilities, many of the people who need treatment wind up at county jail -- often for "petty offenses," according to a press release.

In April, WTTW's "Chicago Tonight" assembled an interactive graph on the age and racial distribution of Cook County Jail admissions from 2012, and data on criminal offenses from 2011 and 2012 (embedded below).

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