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‘Do your job’: Illinois sheriffs take aim at DOC over inmate transfer policy

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QUINCY (WGEM) -- Illinois sheriffs say the Department of Corrections has forced them to house inmates already sentenced to state prisons for months on end and at their own expense for more than a year.

"Some were in our jail for six months before we were able to get them into the Department of Corrections and that's only because we will call or email and let them know we are at critical housing levels and that usually gets their attention," Adams County Sheriff Rich Wagner said.

Sheriff Wagner said the Department of Corrections stopped accepting inmates sentenced from county jails between March to April of 2020 to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading in their facilities.

Sheriff Wagner said even though the state has lifted its coronavirus restrictions, the DOC has yet to resume taking inmates.

"We currently have 12 inmates that are sentenced and ready to go to DOC that they are not taking right now," Sheriff Wagner said.

He said keeping DOC inmates in their jails takes a bite out of their budget.

"We're paying for their, food, their water, we're paying for their medical expenses, their prescription drugs and that really should be on the Department of Corrections," Sheriff Wagner said.

McDonough County Sheriff Nick Petitgout says the DOC hasn't reimbursed his department for the costs of holding their inmates.

He said the cost is getting passed on to taxpayers, and it's piling up.

"We are well over 1300 days of inmates being held in our jail over the past year and a half," he said. "1300 multiplied by $55 a day, that's what the cost here to the taxpayers has been."

That's more than $71,000 dollars coming out of their budget, instead of the state's budget.

Sheriff Wagner said the Illinois Sheriff's Association is now negotiating with the DOC to come to an agreement on prisoner reimbursement but said the difference between their numbers is night and day.

"The Department of Corrections offered $35 per day," he said. "The cost of housing an inmate, depending on their medical condition, depending on their diet, depending on others factors is anywhere between $45 to $65 per day."

Sheriff Petitgout said the DOC needs to step up.

"We're simply asking them to simply do their job," he said. "We're expected to do our job, we do that, and they need to do theirs."

WGEM News reached out the DOC for comment. They said,

"The Illinois Department of Corrections is committed to safely admitting as many men and women from the counties as possible. Intakes are scheduled based on space availability, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 test results. We have been accepting transfers from county jails since August 3, 2020 and have processed 7,975 new admissions and 1,206 turnarounds to date.”

IDOC Public Information Officer Lindsey Hess

The Illinois Sheriffs' Association sent a letter to the Department of Corrections outlining their concerns.

You can read it below.

IDOC-6-16-21-letter-on-inmate-transfers

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Blake Sammann

Blake Sammann is a reporter and weekend anchor at WGEM News.

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