MORRIS – Grundy County Sheriff Kevin Callahan is denying allegations by Teamsters Local 700 that Grundy County correctional officers are in danger while moving inmates with just one officer on the transport.
“As sheriff of Grundy County, the safety of my staff and the people we serve is my No. 1 priority,” Callahan said in a news release. “In my 33 years at the sheriff’s office and four as the sheriff, we have never had an officer injured while transporting inmates.”
Callahan said the Teamsters issued a recent news release about safety issues as part of their contract negotiations.
“This is a common union bargaining tactic, but I won’t bargain a labor agreement through the press,” Callahan said. “It’s detrimental to the sheriff’s office, the employees and the public.”
Teamsters Local 700 business agent Tom Wilcox said the Teamsters news release was not a negotiation tactic but a matter of informing the people of Grundy County of unsafe practices that he said could not only jeopardize the safety of the transporting officer, but also the public if the inmate were to escape during transport.
“It affects every resident of Grundy County and any other county they are transporting inmates through,” Wilcox said.
Teamsters Local 700 said in its news release last week that Grundy County correctional officers for the sheriff's department are being forced to "transfer dangerous inmates in and out of the jail facility every day."
Callahan said in response to the Teamsters’ news release that historically the Grundy County Sheriff’s Department has used two correctional officers when the inmate is a 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 him or her to court for due process.
Wilcox said that all of the Grundy County transfers he has checked since July were single-officer transports.
In a news release issued Wednesday, Callahan said he has “reached out to every sheriff in the state of Illinois and received an overwhelming response, confirming that our present practice is consistent with the majority of the jails in the state of Illinois, with the possible exception being Cook Co., where the Teamsters representative, Mr. Wilcox, came from.”
Wilcox said he does not know of another county where inmates are transferred by just one correctional officer or deputy.
Will County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Kathy Hoffmeyer confirmed that the agency uses two deputies to transport inmates to other counties.
Calls to officials with the sheriff’s offices of Livingston, LaSalle and Kendall counties were not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.