CHICAGO — It was a broiling Midwestern day, the kind Chicago is famous for. A huge portion of the city was down at the waterfront, taking in the spectacle of the annual Air and Water Show, but on the deep west side of town, another kind of gathering was in progress, on the stretch of Sacramento Street that borders Cook County Jail (CCJ).
This massive facility houses approximately 9,000 inmates on any given day, a population which draws about half its number from the surrounding residential neighborhoods. The 96-acre campus sits directly across the street from single-family homes with reasonably maintained front yards — and views of long stretches of chain-link fence, topped with barbed wire and hemming in the tired, monolithic correctional facility. What, one wonders, does a view like that do to the psychic airspace of a neighborhood?