Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle responds to Newsweek Magazine’s March 4, 2014 article: “How Obamacare May Lower the Prison Population More Than Any Reform in a Generation”.
To the Editor:
Cook County, home to 130 municipalities including the City of Chicago, is the second largest county in the United States. As President of Cook County’s Board of Commissioners, I am charged with overseeing an overburdened criminal justice system which includes one of the nation’s largest jails.
I commend Newsweek for recognizing the vital connection between Obamacare and safer communities (“How Obamacare May Lower the Prison Population More Than Any Reform in a Generation,” March 4, 2014.) In November 2012, Cook County was granted a Medicaid waiver that has already allowed us to provide health insurance to over 86,000 low income residents, including 2,600 formerly detained individuals.
For the first time, many of these people are now receiving mental health and substance abuse treatment supported by preventive physical health care in their communities. These efforts mean those with criminal records are less likely to return to our jail, while others will never make that first trip into detention. When a young person struggling with depression gets treatment instead of access to street drugs, it puts him or her on the path to a productive life. We can realize lower rates of incarceration and recidivism in 2014 by seizing the opportunity Obamacare has created.
Toni Preckwinkle President, Cook County Board of Commissioners