Illinois’ county sheriffs got a big win Monday in their ongoing battle with Gov. J.B. Pritzker, and they wasted little time in taking advantage of it.
A Logan County judge found that the governor has no authority to bar transfers of sentenced inmates or those on holds for parole violations from local jails to state prisons. The judge’s decision prompted Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman, among others throughout the state, to take immediate advantage of the order.
“We took 20” to the Department of Corrections’ intake facility at Stateville on Tuesday, Chief Deputy Shannon Barrett said. Another 35 inmates are awaiting transfer, and Barrett said “we’ll get them there as soon as possible.”
“There’s a whole line of (county jail vans containing inmates) there today,” Barrett said.
“Space issues” are continuing at the McLean County jail after the Illinois Department of Corrections turned away at the prison gates 33 inmates scheduled for transfer, Sheriff Jon Sandage said Tuesday. […]
Vans filled with 36 inmates left Bloomington at 5 a.m. Tuesday for Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, but IDOC officials said they could take no more than three.
“We were hoping to get rid of 36, but we only got rid of three,” Sandage told the McLean County Justice Committee Tuesday evening. “They said they ran out of space.”
Judge Jonathan Wright ruled in Logan County Monday that the IDOC must accept inmates within 14 days of a transfer. The sheriff’s association estimated about 2,000 inmates are awaiting transfer to state facilities, including about 44 in McLean County.
“Our first van left Bloomington at 5 a.m.,” said Sandage. But counties from across the state also were bringing their prisoners. So, by 2 p.m. when McLean County’s five vans reached the gate, the prison staff said it already was full.
Yeah, maybe they need a better system in place. Or the sheriffs could call ahead before just hitting the road.
…Adding… The county where the judge lives…
The Logan County Sheriff’s Office attempted to transfer seven inmates to the state-run Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro on Wednesday night, but when the transport vehicle arrived at the state prison, two of the seven inmates tested positive for Covid-19.
The Department of Corrections would not accept the inmates who tested positive, which sparked a short standoff between the state and local agencies. The Logan County transport vehicle insisted the inmates be transferred, and refused to leave the parking lot for a period of about two hours after their tests came back positive, two sources said.
A sergeant at the Logan County jail initially declined to comment on the incident when reached by phone on Wednesday night. Moments later, the vehicle left the state prison parking lot and returned to the county jail in Lincoln with all seven inmates still in their custody.
News reports in Illinois indicate that a number of county sheriffs have begun the process of transferring prisoners held in county jails to the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC). These transfers had been blocked by an order from Governor Pritzker as part of the State’s strategy to curb the spread of COVID-19 in state correctional facilities. After a group of county sheriffs challenged the order, a Logan County Judge ruled against the Governor’s order, and sheriffs quickly began the transfer process before the ruling could be appealed.
The following statement can be attributed to Camille Bennett, Director of the Corrections Reform Project, ACLU of Illinois:
“It is regrettable that some sheriffs appear anxious to resume transfers to IDOC even before the legal process has played out. Elected officials should be mindful of health risks to those being transferred as well as those inside IDOC facilities, including staff and their families.
We know that prisons and jails have been vectors for spread of the coronavirus and moving people in and out – including sheriffs’ personnel managing the transfers – only increases spread of the virus.
The State deserves an opportunity to appeal this ruling before the risk of spread is magnified. Unnecessarily subjecting detainees, staff, and communities to a potentially lethal virus without appropriate public health precautions is needlessly cruel.”