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McLean County sheriff says he's sending 60 inmates to another county due to jail staff shortages

Emily Bollinger
/
WGLT file
It’s an ironic development for McLean County government, which years ago would have to ship inmates to other counties because it didn’t have space at the jail. The jail expansion opened in spring 2019.

Four years after a nearly $40 million expansion, the McLean County jail is once again sending inmates to another county – this time because of a shortage of jail staff.

McLean County Sheriff Matt Lane said that he sent 50 inmates to LaSalle County on Tuesday and plans to send 10 more. Lane said it’s necessary because he’s down 24 correctional officers at the jail. The move will save three shifts of overtime pay every day, and “hopefully give the staff some relief and rest they need,” he said.

“I didn’t want to do it, to be honest, but for the safety and security of the staff and the inmates it was necessary. And hopefully very temporary,” Lane told WGLT. “It’s disappointing to a lot of folks, including myself. I didn’t want to have to move people. I want them here. I want them closer to their family and easier accessibility. We should be handling their time with us. I didn’t want to have to do this. I don’t want it to be an unsafe facility for anybody. It was necessary to do.”

McLean County Sheriff Matt Lane
Ryan Denham
/
WGLT
McLean County Sheriff Matt Lane.

Lane warned that staffing shortages would be his biggest challenge soon after taking over as sheriff last year. Many employers are struggling to fill jobs during a national labor crunch, and law enforcement has felt that more acutely amid changing public sentiment toward policing.

The 60 relocated inmates will cost the county around $2,700 per day, or $45 per inmate per day, Lane said.

Lane said this will hopefully only last three weeks. It takes two to three months to get someone trained to work at the jail, and there are 10 people in the hiring process now and more applications coming in, he said. The sheriff’s department is also expanding its recruiting efforts to include radio advertising, billboards, and more events, he said.

The county is also finalizing a new contract with the union that represents its correctional officers, Lane said. That’s expected to create a higher starting pay and wage increases across the board. That new contract will start making its way toward County Board approval next week as long as the union approves it.

“That will help, I think,” Lane said.

It’s an ironic development for McLean County government, which years ago would have to ship inmates to other counties because it didn’t have space at the jail. The jail expansion opened in spring 2019.

“Some of the County Board members now were on the board when they built our addition,” Lane said. “And it’s disappointing to them because they went through all the work and effort to get that addition put on because we needed it,” Lane said. “It’s not a question of the facility or the size right now. It’s the size of the workforce that we’re dealing with and the lack thereof.”

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.