Teamsters Local 700 claims Grundy County Sheriff's Department practices unsafe

MORRIS – Teamsters Local 700 stated in a news release last week that Grundy County corrections officers for the Grundy County Sheriff's Department are being forced to "transfer dangerous inmates in and out of the jail facility every day."

Sheriff Kevin Callahan said he can't comment on the matter because the department is in the middle of contract negotiations with the union.

"In all of the transfers I checked since July 2016 there were never two correctional officers transporting an inmate," Teamster Local 700 Business Agent Tom Wilcox said.

Callahan said historically the Grundy County Sheriff's Department has used two correctional officers when the inmate is high risk, or when he or she is being transferred long distances.

Inmates are transferred when there is a court order from another county for the inmate to appear in court. It is required by law that the agency that has the inmate in custody takes he or she to court for due process.

There are currently 12 full-time correctional officers and one part-time officer working for the department who are represented by Teamsters Local 700, along with the deputies.

Callahan said it is a budgetary issue that prevents the department from sending two officers, and said his budget was just cut by $500,000.

"I disagree with it being a budgetary issue," Wilcox said. "The county has money in reserves."

He said if the County Board doesn't want to allot the money from reserves, the proposed public safety tax that will be on the spring ballot could be used, if passed, to provide a safer work environment for the officers.

The union filed a grievance Aug. 24 regarding the issue of officers transporting inmates alone.

Wilcox said Callahan denied the grievance a week later on Aug. 31.

"Since then, the sheriff's office has continually delayed the process, canceling two hearing dates that were set for September and November respectively," the news release stated.

A union representative met with Callahan on Dec. 12 to discuss the issues without any resolution, according to the news release.

"These officers deserve to be safe while at work like the rest of us and we will not stand idly by as they are unnecessarily put in harm's way," Becky Strzechowski, Teamsters Local 700 president, stated in the news release.

Callahan said the inmates being transferred are not an escape risk, and that they are shackled and handcuffed. If they are an escape risk there are two officers assigned to the transport, he said.