Months after McLean County opened a $40 million jail expansion, the county is still having to send some inmates to other counties, though jail officials say that should be temporary.
McLean County Sheriff Chief Deputy Jamie Kessinger told the county’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council on Thursday the county has an unusually large number of inmates who are under no contact orders, and the county currently doesn’t have the space to keep them all separated.
“It’s impossible to keep them totally away from each other,” he said.
Kessinger attributes that in part to a rash of violent crime in Bloomington-Normal.
“We are kind of unprecedented with the amount of murders we’ve got right now,” Kessinger told the council. “And the whole gang thing is just totally different than what we were used to.”
Sheriff Jon Sandage said much of the space problem should be alleviated once the jail renovations are completed, which should be in about three weeks.
Crews are finishing renovations to the old jail space, where a new medical unit is being installed.
Inmates can be given no contact orders by the sheriff’s office, police or prosecutors if they are deemed a safety threat.
Kessinger told the council gangs have become less structured than they were in 1990s, but still pose a problem for law enforcement.
“Old school gangs were defined and well-ruled and you knew exactly who they were, now it’s kind of turned like Chicago, two blocks of kids in Normal might call themselves a gang and two blocks in Bloomington call themselves another gang and it’s a lot less defined,” Kessinger said.
Kessinger said the jail is averaging between 220 and 230 inmates daily. The new jail capacity is close to 440, but a portion of that is for future use.
The CJCC was formed in 2009 to address jail overcrowding. Now that the jail expansion has opened and the county has taken over steps to address mental health issues, the council is looking for other problems to address.
McLean County Circuit Court Judge Casey Costigan said that could include gun violence, recovery programs and jail technology.
“We are looking at where we can be effective. We don’t want to just be a name in the community,” Costigan said.
Costigan said the council is talking with stakeholders to help decide where it can have an impact.
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