Delay in taking prisoners costing local taxpayers

State Senator Dave Syverson (R-Rockford) is raising concerns on behalf of sheriffs across the state who continue to have issues transferring convicted criminals out of county jails and into state prisons.

“When the pandemic first struck, Governor Pritzker, unilaterally, decided to halt the transfer of inmates from county jails to state-run facilities,” said Sen. Syverson. “That Executive Order never made sense to me as a prisoner was more at risk of contracting COVID-19 in smaller, overcrowded county jails than in a prison where they had ability to better separate inmates. Regardless, Illinois is in Phase 5 and the moratorium on transfers to the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has been lifted, yet transfers are still delayed and spotty at best.”

Sen. Syverson argues that every day a state prisoner is left in a county jail, it is local taxpayers who are on the hook for the cost to incarcerate and provide for medical needs of those inmates.

According to Boone County Sheriff Dave Ernest, delays in transfers have cost Boone County taxpayers over $400,000 to date. Meanwhile, Winnebago County Sheriff Caruana confirmed the delayed transfers have cost the Winnebago taxpayers over $1 million.

Currently, the IDOC inmate population across 28 state facilities has decreased by 20,000 inmates compared to 2015. According to the most recent IDOC population report, IDOC has roughly 27,000 inmates under its care, which is 4,000 less than when Governor Pritzker lifted his freeze on inmate transfers in July of 2020.

“IDOC has the capacity and the capability to accept these transfers at a faster pace than they are. These delays are unacceptable,” said Sen. Syverson.

Sen. Syverson did note that lawmakers pushed for funding to reimburse local municipalities for the costs incurred at county jails related to the inmate transfer freeze. What was allocated was $25 million for Fiscal Year 2022 budget. These funds will help counties but not cover all the costs. In addition, to date, it is unclear how those dollars will be allocated.

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