The Public Services & Government category is a little-appreciated corner of Yelp. Here is the place for angry rants and glowing reviews of city parks, libraries, the DMV—and, come to find out, Cook County Jail.
The correctional facility with an inmate population of some 9,000 men and women—spread among a 96-acre complex that spans the Little Village and South Lawndale neighborhoods—boasts an average three-star rating, stacking up better than its coastal counterparts: the Rikers Island Prison Complex in New York has two stars; the LA County jail system has a paltry star and a half.
“Coming here has taught me that I cannot receive but by giving,” writes Yelp reviewer Dan H., who identifies in his five-star review as a volunteer who comes to Cook County Jail weekly to lead Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. “My years of trying to gain for myself by taking always availed less and less until I was left with little more than too much stuff.”
On the other end of the spectrum is Chris S. “It’s JAIL! Don’t ever ever go here,” he writes in the one-star review. “Even if you’re picking someone up, make them walk 5 blocks away to meet you!”
A Yelper who had visited a friend being held at the prison complains in her two-star review of a lack of signage: “It’s easy to get lost or open the wrong door and sound the alarm!” She was also unhappy that employees couldn’t help her figure out how to put money into an inmate’s commissary account.
Another user describes being locked up for three days on a domestic assault charge. Identifying as a University of Wisconsin grad (a business major with minors in film and marketing), Martin N. writes that he had a physical altercation trying to collect from a “deadbeat tenant,” who allegedly “beat the tar” out of him. But he seems more upset about the indignities he faced at the jail, which he rates with a single star: “The real criminals are the Cook County Jail government employees sucking the Illinois budget dry with their fat cat salaries, benefits, and retirement packages. You should see the personal vehicles these jail guards are leaving work in. UNBELIEVABLE!”
Recounting an unhappy but relatively hassle-free visit to the jail to see a boyfriend who had been picked up on a drug charge, Angela P. concludes her three-star write-up on a rather amusing note of disappointment: “Visitation is nothing like the movies. I really just wanted to talk on one of those cool phones. Did I? No. There’s a big plexiglass window, and a metal speaker like in a currency exchange, to converse with each other. Boring!”
Another woman notes: “When u visit your treated as a criminal but the inmates hootin and hollering boosts your self esteem a bit. Parking sucks. Expect to sit around forever to pick up the loved/hated one you posted bail for.”
Some reviewers who’ve had personal experiences of incarceration at the jail focus on the food. “These meals were the most expensive meals i’ve ever eaten and they come to me WRAPPED IN CELOPHANE??? DROPPED THROUGH A SLIT IN A DOOR?? Where’s the humanity?” asks Italo C., who still decided to give the place a couple stars.
“Bottom line is this is the worst by far, it’s even worse than state prison,” concludes Frank G.’s two-star review of “the county hotel.” “Lesson learned,” he writes. “Keep the license clean, have insurance, drink out of sight of police, don’t start fights, or finish them.”