By Associated Press - Thursday, November 20, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - The Cook County Sheriff’s Department is sending out crews of jail inmates to tear down abandoned buildings that have become magnets for crime.

The department in recent weeks has deployed inmates sentenced to the Vocational Rehabilitation Impact Center or “boot camp” to demolish a dozen homes in distressed communities.

But on Wednesday, inmates started the program’s biggest project yet. They are tearing down a 23-unit townhome complex in Dixmoor that area residents have long complained has turned into a site for drug dealing and other criminal activity.

Sheriff Tom Dart’s office says the program in which inmates receive training in demolition not only removes dilapidated building from the landscape. He says it also gives inmates a skill that could help them find jobs after their release.

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