Area sheriff warns local taxpayers will bear burden as state stops taking inmates from county jails

COVID behind bars
COVID behind bars(MGN, Stocksnap)
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 8:53 PM CST
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BLOOMINGTON (HEART OF ILLINOIS ABC) - The Illinois Department of Corrections is again declining to accept inmates from county jails because of COVID-19 outbreaks at state prisons, a move a local sheriff said is forcing local taxpayers to foot the bill to house those prisoners.

The state calls it a temporary pause, but McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage told Heart of Illinois ABC on Tuesday that the corrections department and Gov. JB Pritzker are “shoving their burdens on local taxpayers.”

Sandage said his county jail is currently housing 44 inmates that should be in state prison, and the last inmate to be transported from McLean County to IDOC was December 20.

According to the sheriff, it costs at least $70 a day to house and feed an inmate, but federal money distributed by the state to compensate the county amounts to about $35 a day.

In a news release, IDOC said it needs the space ordinarily occupied by new inmates to safely quarantine and isolate those who have COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus.

Sandage said housing those who should be in state prisons means there’s less space at county jails for COVID isolations and quarantines.

At the McLean County Jail, the sheriff said there are less than 10 positive COVID cases, down from more than 50 cases shortly before Christmas.

County leaders and the statewide sheriff’s association are considering legal options to fight the state’s action, Sheriff Sandage said.

The state facilities temporarily not taking inmates include Logan, Graham, Menard, and Northern Reception and Classification Centers where new admissions are ordinarily accepted.

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