Jail personnel go through stacks of letters and books in the mail room at Cook County Jail on Oct. 12. All mail coming into the jail has faced greater screening methods since the paper restriction began in April. (Cary Robbins / DePaul)

Since the beginning of 2023, Cook County Jail administration has reported 16 deaths in custody, with five attributed to overdoses, according to Cook County Medical Examiner records. To address the uptick in overdose deaths, jail leadership took unprecedented measures, including what some called a facility-wide paper ban. 

Orlando Mayorga delivers a talk as part of FIRSTHAND: Life After Prison. (WTTW)

Thousands of restrictive laws govern people who have been released from prison in the United States, making it difficult for them to find housing, employment and to restart life after they have done their time.

Men at Stateville Correctional Center participate in a class through Northwestern University’s Prison Education Program on Aug. 15, 2022. (WTTW News)

While many schools will offer classes for credit to prison inmates, Northwestern University says its the only top 10 school that grants degrees to prisoners. And next spring, students at Stateville Correctional Center, a maximum-security prison in Will County, will be the first to receive their bachelor's degrees from Northwestern while in prison.

Brett, left, a detainee at the DuPage County Jail, watches and learns as tattoo artist Tom Begley works on a tattoo for Jaime Marinez to cover a bullet hole scar that depicts the date and time of Marinez's father's death, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022, in Wheaton, Ill. (AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast)
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The Associated Press got exclusive access over two days to the first 12 inmates enrolled in the largely privately funded gang-cessation and jobs program at the DuPage County Jail and to their cellblock. For their safety, they’re isolated from the jail’s 500 other inmates, half of whom are in gangs.

(WTTW News)

Incarcerated people in Illinois prisons are having difficulty getting access to basic necessities, like hygiene items or detergent. The Illinois Department of Corrections says this is due to a supply chain issue, but advocates point to disputes between IDOC and vendors.

Chief Judge Timothy Evans announced Tuesday that his office — which covers the courts and the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center — will impose COVID vaccine mandates.  (WTTW News)

Chief Judge Timothy Evans announced Tuesday that his office — which covers the courts and the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center — will impose COVID vaccine mandates. This after the Chief Judge was criticized for previously not mandating the vaccine for all employees.

There’s good and bad news for Cook County's troubled jail system. Paris Schutz has more on the changing landscape of the Cook County criminal justice system amid some political hardball between top county officials. What progress is being made?

Former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is now officially in the custody of the Federal Prison Bureau. Yesterday, he tried to report early to the federal correctional facility in Butner, North Carolina, but was turned away. Elizabeth Brackett and her guests unravel what happened, and what the 48-year-old will face during his two-and-a-half year term.

Toni Preckwinkle

A new plan to reform Cook County's bond court system could mean fewer inmates at County Jail. We hear from Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Chief Judge Tim Evans.

Immigration Policy

Should Cook County ignore a request by federal immigration officials to keep illegal immigrants in jail longer? We hear some of your thoughts in tonight's Viewer Mail.

Marijuana Possession

The debate over decriminalizing marijuana lit up our studio last week. We hear what you had to say about it when we read some viewer mail.