COOK COUNTY JAIL — Kids waiting for loved ones to bond out of Cook County Jail now have access to books, toys and iPads inside their own colorful waiting area.
The "Bright Space," as its called, opened quietly last week inside Division 5, the jail's administrative hub at 2700 S. California Ave. That's where bond is collected — and relatives or friends sometimes wait hours for loved ones to be released.
"There's nothing for kids to do" while they wait, Kendra Kett said at a news conference Tuesday. The new waiting area "allows them to be socialized with other kids and minimize the stress of that wait time."
Kett is vice president of operations for Bright Horizons Foundation, a Midwestern nonprofit devoted to creating fun spaces for kids inside homeless shelters, food pantries, jails and housing for domestic-violence victims.
"Normally agencies like this are dealing with adults — they're not dealing with the children that come with the adults," Kett said. "Kids that come with theses situations have needs, too."
Bright Space play areas are "a really warm, nurturing, safe and highly interactive space for children in challenging situations," Kett continued.
Dr. Nneka Jones Tapia, executive director of the Cook County Department of Corrections, said hundreds of children pass through the Division 5 waiting area each month: "To see children reading, playing, learning and filled with joy is a sight to see."
The new waiting area, adjacent to adult seating, is stocked with two iPads, a TV, pint-sized chairs and tables, and dozens of books.
According to Kett, volunteers from Bright Horizons will ensure the space is clean, well stocked and refurbished on a regular basis. The Division 5 Bright Space room is the second in Cook County Jail. There's already one inside Division 4, which houses female inmates.