Sometime in the next couple of months, people who get in trouble with police on a weekend will have to be taken all the way to the Criminal Courts building on Chicago's West Side for their initial appearance and bond hearing.
Bond hearings currently are held on Saturdays at all five suburban Cook County courthouses, including the 6th District facility at Markham, 16501 Kedzie Ave. That facility also has a judge on duty on Sundays to handle bond hearings for people who get arrested in the south suburbs.
Cook County officials have said $1.9 million can be saved by closing all suburban courthouses on weekends and holding hearings at the Central Bond Court of the Criminal Courts building, 2650 S. California Ave. That courthouse is currently open on weekends to handle cases that occur only within Chicago's limits.
County officials say holding hearings at one courthouse will reduce costs for sheriff's police, court clerks, public defenders and state's attorney's offices in 2012.
Liane Jackson, a spokeswoman for Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, said Markham was the only suburban courthouse that had significant legal activity on weekends. Officials decided the cost-savings would be improved if all the suburban courthouses closed on Saturdays and Sundays, Jackson said.
"The cost savings are significant," Jackson said. "We're trying to save money in all parts of county government."
County officials said an average of 87 cases come up for bond hearings each Saturday at courthouses in Markham, Skokie, Rolling Meadows, Maywood and Bridgeview. Markham also sees an average of 37 cases each Sunday.
At the courthouse in Chicago, the number of cases can exceed 150 each weekend, sheriff's police say.
The closings will begin at the Bridgeview District courthouse for the southwest suburbs beginning Jan. 7, with other suburban courthouse weekend closings being phased in during the next two months.
Holding all weekend bond hearings at the Criminal Courts building will mean that police departments across Cook County's 128 suburban municipalities will have to transport their weekend prisoners to the courthouse in the Little Village neighborhood.
Jackson said the Cook County Sheriff's Office supports the change, and that no law enforcement agencies or officials have made any complaints known to County Board officials.
"I haven't heard any complaints," Jackson said. "No one has brought anything to our attention."
The change will come at a time when county officials also want to charge people a $4.75 daily fee for parking their cars at the county courthouses. Cook County Board members will discuss that issue when they meet Jan. 18.
County Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy, of the south suburbs, wants to craft a resolution that would exempt people with disabilities from having to pay a parking fee, along with jurors, witnesses in court cases and other people who work at the buildings on a daily basis.