County jail to shut down

Edgar County

PARIS, Ill. (WCIA) — Nearly two months after receiving word that the Edgar County Jail would no longer be covered by the Illinois Counties Risk Management Trust, county board members have announced a closing date.

Around midnight on December 1, the county’s jail operations will cease, forcing the county to plan just how they’ll transport inmates to other facilities.

That collaboration will be split among at least five different county sheriffs, but the details are still being worked out.

County board president Jeff Voigt said the county has upped a budget line for prisoner housing and transportation to $383,000 in anticipation.

Agreements to transfer inmates to other jails have still not been finalized and the county still does not know where all the inmates will be transferred. It’s in the process of formalizing deals with Ford, Douglas, and other possible county jails.

The insurance company says it couldn’t cover the jail because there’s too much wrong with it, including structural insecurity and excessive filth. It would cost the county millions to fix.

The county board president says the jail houses an average of 30 inmates a day. The money to pay to house them in other jails will come out of the general fund. The county says it will not take away money from other departments to do this.

Women and long term sentence inmates have already been taken to other locations. But the rest are still waiting to be transferred out.

In the meantime, county board members will be tasked with modernizing the 100-plus-year old building so that it can be in compliance with Illinois Department of Corrections standards.

IDOC evaluations over the past several years have cited the Edgar County Jail for numerous violations — not separating prisoners, maintaining unclean facilities, not having enough staff and not having a mental health professional on-call, among them.

Staff were also cited for performing strip searches on inmates who were at the jail for minor infractions.

Voigt said facilities issues can often be traced back to the age of certain parts of the building.

“The buildings are old,” he said. “The jail was built in three different sections: the first one was built in 1891 and the other two in the 1970s or ’80s. They built them for the corrections requirements then. Now, in 2019, those have all changed.”

The conditions and staffing levels were bad enough this year, insurers said, to jeopardize the county’s ability to keep their facility insured.

On Monday, county board members publicized the announcement at a regularly-scheduled board meeting.

Because the building needs updating, Voigt said, the county will have to raise additional money to pay for the updates over the course of the next year.

That means the county could be considering a possible referendum or a sales tax to raise the funds.

This is a developing story.

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