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Sandage, Sheriff’s Group Push IDOC On Delayed Inmate Transfers

McLean County Jail
Eric Stock
The McLean County Jail currently has about 250 inmates, including 65 awaiting transfer to the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Updated: June 21, 2021 at 9:29 AM CDT
WGLT updated this story to include IDOC's response.

McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage said his office has spent an additional $500,000 over the last year to house inmates who should be in state custody.

The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has refused most inmate transfers over the last year to limit the risk of COVID-19 spread. A Logan County judge last August ordered county jails to hold onto those inmates.

Currently, Sandage said the McLean County Jail has 65 IDOC inmates, and he's not sure how long the jail will have to keep them in custody.

“We are just trying to get (IDOC) to not only communicate with (county sheriffs) more, but also to do their responsibility to take these prisoners and to take the tax burden off of local taxpayers,” he said.

Sandage said the additional costs includes staffing, food and transportation for when inmates need medical care.

He said while the jail is still well under capacity — it has about 250 inmates in custody right now — the additional inmates place extra burdens on corrections officers.

“We you have fuller housing units, it’s more stressful on staff,” Sandage said. “Some people that are sentenced to the Illinois Department of Corrections, their attitude and the way they behave sometimes becomes more (problematic) for the correctional officers.”

Illinois Sheriff's Association (ISA) President and Ogle County Sheriff Brian VanVickle sent a letter Tuesday to IDOC director Rob Jeffreys urging the agency to lift the transfer restrictions.

“At this point, any effort by IDOC to keep persons safe appears to simply be an effort to keep things easy and that violates the governor’s order,” VanVickle wrote, noting that Gov. JB Pritzker has lifted nearly all COVID-19 restrictions and coronavirus cases within jails and the general population have dropped sharply.

The ISA has been negotiating with IDOC on a reimbursement rate for housing DOC inmates in their jails. Sandage said the two sides have not been able to reach an agreement.

IDOC public information officer Lindsey Hess said the agency has been accepting inmate transfers from county jails since last August. Hess said the state has processed nearly 8,000 new admissions and more than 1,200 turnarounds, where inmates are then transferred to custody elsewhere, paroled or released.

"The Illinois Department of Corrections is committed to safely admitting as many men and women from the counties as possible," Hess said in a statement. "Intakes are scheduled based on space availability, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 test results."

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