09/13/2013 03:48 pm ET

Cook County Jail's Inmate Population Rising


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.

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