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After ruling, McLean County's jail gets ready for the end of cash bail

The exterior of the McLean County Jail in downtown Bloomington
Eric Stock
WGLT file
As cash bail ends, McLean County Sheriff Matt Lane thinks the reduction in jail inmates could be 30-40%, or up to 96 inmates, though that is only an estimate.

The McLean County sheriff said the population of the county jail will likely fall after the SAFE-T Act goes into effect in September.

As cash bail ends, Sheriff Matt Lane thinks the reduction in jail inmates could be 30-40%, or up to 96 inmates, though that is only an estimate. The jail census on a recent day was 240, so the range of the potential reduction could be 72-96 inmates.

Lane said that could relieve pressure from staff shortages that have forced McLean County to house inmates in the LaSalle County Jail.

"We usually have about 40-50 at all times up there in Lasalle County just now. So it may decrease the population enough to bring everybody back. I'm not sure," said Lane.

The SAFE-T Act will require prosecutors and deputies to find out more about potential inmates soon after their arrest to help decide whether they should be released or held. Lane said the reduction in inmates could allow the jail to have administrative flexibility to do that.

"I think if we are lower in population, there will be a little bit of relief for those correctional officers and won't need quite as many. We can move those people to booking and deal with the quicker booking and release," said Lane.

Prosecutors, judges, and police agencies planned for how to make the change for many months before the court challenge to the law held things up. Lane said they have an outline of the training on the new policies, but not a detailed curriculum yet. With about 50 deputies and 64 correctional officers, Lane said the training will be cumbersome to get done by mid-September.

"I have deputies that have done this job for a very long time and have always for the most part done it the same way. It is going to be a retraining of everyone to make sure they specifically know what those changes are and who to release when they are out on the street and who to bring in here," said Lane.

He said he hopes the training can be done in four to eight hours. Some of it will likely happen on shift, but that means other work won't get done during that time. Lane said there will be some hiccups and growing pains, but his department will work it out and keep the community safe.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.
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