A predominantly Latino neighborhood, Little Village is technically part of South Lawndale. Little Village is Chicago’s largest Mexican-American community with a two-mile stretch of Mexican-American businesses lining 26th street. The community’s 26th Street Mexican Independence Day Parade draws nearly a million spectators to the community each September.
Despite the rich Mexican culture of the neighborhood, Little Village is known by most as home to the Cook County Jail and the Cook County Criminal Courts. With a daily population of approximately 9,000 inmates, the Cook County Department of Corrections is one of the largest county jail facilities in the United States. The majority of detainees in the facility are awaiting trial. Situated on 96 acres, the Department of Corrections complex contains 11 separate divisions, each headed by its own superintendent, but when the jail opened in 1929, it consisted of just one building. Severe overcrowding has been a problem since the facility opened on April Fool’s Day, 1929. However, in recent years the inmate population has declined, which according to some experts is the result of lower crime rates, but could also be due to fewer arrests. The Cook County Jail has housed numerous celebrity criminals over the years. Al Capone, Frank Nitti, Jeff Fort, Richard Speck, and John Wayne Gacy all spent time in the Cook County Jail. It also served as the setting for the 1975 Tony-nominated musical Chicago, which was made into a hit film in 2002.
While the Cook County Criminal Courts building might not have the infamous reputation of the jail, the Latin inscription, S-P-Q-C, which stands for Senatus Populusque Chicago the Senate and People of Chicago easily identifies the neoclassical building.