EDGAR COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Eight weeks left, no plan in place — yet.
That’s the current status for the Edgar County Jail, slated for a potential close on December 1, following the loss of insurance coverage from the Illinois Counties Risk Management Trust.
A representative from ICRMT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But in a letter to the county dated August 23, ICRMT officials determined that “premises and operations at the Edgar County Jail…will be excluded for general liability, law enforcement liability, property and inland marine coverage” following a review of the “tasks and facilities” of the jail.
In that review, officials cited nine “critical issues” that resulted in the coverage change, including excessive strip searches, a lack of documentation of the use of force, and the physical condition of the jail.
“The jail is old and in dire need of upgrades to its infrastructure,” the review reads. “I witnessed Christmas lights hanging in place of lighting fixtures. The jail was also dirty, and had trash and liquid on the ground. Ideally, a new facility should be used, but that would be costly; however, this jail does not appear to meet the basic needs of a safe and secure facility.”
Jail conditions in Edgar County have been a long-documented issue for the circa-1892 structure: In 2017, an Illinois Department of Corrections inspection report noted that “the physical limitations of a structure built in 1892 and the management methods employed by the Sheriff’s office make the safety and security of the Edgar County Jail (“facility”) an issue.”
Back then, the jail’s conditions “violate(d) multiple Illinois County Jail Standards” and had for some time, according to IDOC.
Now, following the review from ICRMT, the jail is being recommended for a full audit review by the Legal and Liability Risk Management Institute.
ICRMT officials said jail personnel need to make “an effort…to avoid strip searches for minor crimes/traffic offense(s). The opportunity should be given to bond out, or they should be held separately for a reasonable amount of time.”
Officers should also “be certified correctional officers and undergo appropriate training, including part-time officers,” according to the report. “All officers who perform medical functions and dispense medicine should also be trained in this particular area.”
Other needed medical improvements included establishing a “contract with a mental health professional who makes regular periodic rounds of the jail, in addition to consulting with suicidal subjects.”
ICRMT also noted the discipline investigations are currently investigated by Edgar County’s Sheriff, and “should not be.”
“They should be handled by someone who is a subordinate because all internal affairs investigations need to be reviewed by a person of superior rank,” the group’s report stated.
Earlier Thursday, the Sheriff’s committee of the County Board met to discuss budget issues; a spokesperson from the department said there had been no movement on alternative plans for the jail.
In their report, ICRMT recommended officials conduct a study on options for transporting inmates, as well as look into grant funding that could allow the facility to be upgraded.
This is a developing story.