McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage has placed the jail on a 23-hour-per-day lockdown since last week to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We are dealing with the social distancing issue,” Sandage said. “Any precaution that can be taken, outside of releasing people, we have taken.”
Sandage said the jail hasn't had any COVID-19 cases. The McLean County Health Department has confirmed 81 cases in the county.
He said several inmates a week raise concerns to booking officers about contracting the coronavirus hoping they can get released. He said none have shown symptoms.
Sandage told county officials last week “social justice warriors” have been trying to “cause unrest” in the jail and he said some inmates now think that's a way to get out of jail.
“It’s definitely a case where they hear that’s a way to get out,” he said.
A number of social justice groups have called for Sandage to release all inmates who aren’t considered an imminent public safety risk, arguing corrections facilities are at a high risk for a widespread COVID-19 contamination.
The sheriff has said it would be against the law for him to release inmates on his own. He said none who have sought bond reductions or release from a judge have succeeded.
Sandage said the jail population was at 140 on Tuesday; that’s about one-third of what it typically is as officers are handling more minor offenses on the street and judges have suspended weekend and work release sentences.
Sandage said he doesn’t know when he will lift the lockdown order. He said he will seek guidance from the Illinois Department of Corrections, whom he speaks with several times a week.
“We listen to some of the information they have and some of the things they are dealing with and we try to stay ahead of any issues,” Sandage said.
McLean County was the first county in the state to ban jail visits on March 12.
Sandage said all staff gets health screened daily, they all wear masks and the jail gets cleaned several times daily.
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