January 23, 2023
Sheriff Tom Dart – Cook County
Sheriff Tom Dart
Sheriff Tom Dart has dedicated his career to challenging injustice, fighting the violence plaguing our communities, and bringing new, thoughtful approaches to public service.
After serving as a prosecutor and an Illinois state legislator, Sheriff Dart was elected by the people of Cook County, and has brought his reformative vision, and his commitment to action, to his role as sheriff. Sheriff Dart has rewritten the book on what a sheriff can accomplish, looking inside and outside of the conventions of law enforcement for nuanced and thoughtful solutions to help people.
Sheriff Dart’s skills in management, accountability, and forward-thinking leadership was critical in the success of the Cook County Jail being released from almost 40 years of oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice’s federal consent decree, making it the only large jail to ever complete such a task.
Sheriff Dart has been a leader in reforming the criminal justice system and transforming correctional settings into more humane, trauma-informed environments. Sheriff Dart has developed a framework to identify and engage all persons detained in his custody with in-custody service plans and discharge plans tailored to each person’s unique needs and goals.
Sheriff Dart has instituted extensive programming at the Cook County Jail, seeking to give individuals in custody skills that help to stop the revolving door of incarceration. The Sheriff has sought out creative programming within the jail in the areas of art, chess, construction, cooking, gardening, parenting, and literacy, all of which help foster social and emotional growth for individuals in custody while they await trial.
In addition, after collecting data which showed that much of the population in Cook County Jail needed mental health treatment, Sheriff Dart worked, and continues to work, with Cermak Health Services to provide individuals in custody with mental health treatment plans. Sheriff Dart has implemented Trauma-Informed Training for his staff as a tool to engage with the men and women detained in the Cook County Jail as well as their family members who come to visit at the jail.
For people outside of the jail, Sheriff Dart created the Cook County Sheriff’s Office’s Community Resource Center (the CRC), which seeks to help fill the large void that was left when mental health facilities around Chicagoland closed by connecting those in need of mental health treatment in the county to available providers. The CRC assists residents of Cook County with finding housing, job opportunities, and other medical care as well.
Sheriff Dart also formed the Cook County Sheriff’s Office’s Treatment Response Team (the TRT) to provide support and assistance (available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) for those in the community struggling with substance abuse issues. Offering treatment to those who suffer from mental illness has reduced the jail’s population, including reducing recidivism rates.
Sheriff Dart continually has prioritized reducing violence in Chicago, creating programs that build community and connection between law enforcement personnel and the people they serve. At the jail, the Sheriff’s Anti-Violence Effort (SAVE) program provides intensive therapy and life-skills training for those men between the ages of 18 to 24 years old who are incarcerated from neighborhoods with the most violence in the city. Outside of the jail, the Sheriff’s Chicago Initiatives program uses a community policing model, which works to remove guns from the street while reconnecting law enforcement with communities. Led by Sheriff Dart, Sheriff’s Officers regularly create community events that provide health care and offer other necessities so that the people who live in these underserved communities can have some of their needs met.
Under Sheriff Dart’s administration, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office and Cermak Health Services received the 2021 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties for their collaborative and forward-thinking efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 in Cook County Jail. Sheriff Dart also has received the Community Service Award of the Year from the National Alliance on Mental Illness Southwest for his efforts at providing necessary mental health services for individuals in custody.
Sheriff Dart has been named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by TIME Magazine, and a Public Official of the Year by Governing Magazine. He and his wife, Patricia, live on Chicago’s South Side and are the proud parents of five children.