McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage said the jail expansion became fully operational earlier this month as staff and inmates have been moving into the new space.
Sandage said the new pod format requires corrections staff to have more direct supervision of the inmates, which he likens to the being the mayor of a small village.
“Being able to communicate well with the inmates and at the same time, let them know that they are in charge, but that the inmates also are responsible for how well the pod works and what privileges they get,” Sandage said.
Crews are now renovating the old jail space to put in a new medical unit.
Sandage added the new jail space that’s part of the nearly $40 million expansion has more technology, such as videoconference monitors, electronic cell control and jail rounds that are recorded through automation.
Sandage said the jail averages about 200 inmates, while the new capacity is close to 440, nearly doubling its previous numbers of beds. Sandage said more than 70 beds in one of the pods are designed for future use.
He said a new female pod will enable them to provide reasonable accommodations for serve women who are housed in the lockup.
“Previously we had them in a dormitory-type setting and (there was) not enough bed space for all of them, so some of them were sleeping on mattresses on the floor,” he said. “This is by far a more up-to-date facility. Everybody has a bed and it’s more comfortable surroundings.”
As part of McLean County’s ongoing efforts to better address mental health needs, the sheriff’s office will be taking part in a new FUSE program that aims to identify those with serious and chronic mental health needs to limit their frequency in the criminal justice system by more acutely addressing their needs.
“We see some of the same people cycle through the jail again and again,” Sandage said. “If we can get them the help that they need so they don’t cycle back through our jail I think that’s how you measure your success.”
The McLean County Board on Tuesday will consider a contract with Chestnut Health Systems to implement the FUSE program.
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