- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Illinois’ Cook County jail was forced to go on lockdown Tuesday after nearly a fifth of its workforce called out of work.

The Chicago-area jail, which holds approximately 9,000 inmates, announced that the drop in normal staffing levels created safety concerns and led to the decision to place the facility on lockdown.

Out of 793 employees scheduled for Tuesday’s morning shift, 142 employees didn’t come into work, according to Cara Smith, a spokeswoman for the Cook County sheriff’s office.

The staffing problems may have been attributable in part to bad weather. The Chicago area received three inches of snowfall Tuesday morning.

“Generally when we have high numbers of call outs we can point to weather, holidays, or a significant sporting event,” Ms. Smith said.

Officials said in a statement released on the jail’s website that inmates inside the jail were still being allowed to move for medical reasons, emergencies, and visitation. Discharges from the jail were also proceeding as normal. Other movements throughout the jail, such as for recreational activities and other programs, were suspended during the lockdown.

The jail is among the largest single-site county pre-detention facilities in the United States.

Officials expected operations to return to normal Wednesday.

The last time the jail had to go into lockdown for staffing reasons was New Year’s Eve, when 135 employees called out, Ms. Smith said.

An average Tuesday might see 83 employees call out, but Ms. Smith said lockdowns tend to go into effect when staffing dips by 13 to 14 percent.

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