With his burglary case stuck in the court system for the past two years, Reginald Brown has plenty of time to consider his future. Sitting in a mental health unit at Cook County Jail, he gazes at a piece of paper with a cross colored on it that he taped to the bottom of the bunk over his own bed.
“It’s where I pray to God that something good will happen for me, that maybe this time I don’t have to go to prison,” he said in a recent interview.
Brown, who says he has schizophrenia, is one of the mentally ill inmates swelling the jail’s population.
After dipping to 8,900 in 2011, the average annual jail population — primarily inmates awaiting trial — has been on the rise, with the daily count now frequently more than 10,000, the highest totals since 2007. About 5 percent of detainees at the jail have been awaiting trial for more than two years, according to the sheriff’s office.