YORKVILLE – Of all the municipal police departments in Kendall County, Yorkville’s thin blue line would be the most affected by the proposal to close the county jail and house prisoners at the Kane County jail in St. Charles.
Kendall County Sheriff Dwight Baird and Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain are seeking to form a partnership designed to deal with the expected drop in prisoner counts when the cashless bail system takes effect Jan. 1 under a new Illinois law.
Under the plan, transporting prisoners from Kendall County to the Kane County jail would be the responsibility of the police agency making the arrest, after the prisoner has been booked at a secure holding facility at the local police station.
However, that would present a challenge for the Yorkville Police Department.
“We are the only city in Kendall County without a holding facility,” Police Chief Jim Jensen told the Yorkville City Council on July 26.
And while the city is rehabilitating an office building for use as the new City Hall and police headquarters, there currently is no plan to add a holding facility at the new police station.
Yorkville is the county seat, and the city’s police department routinely brings suspects directly to the county jail on West John Street for booking, under an arrangement with the sheriff.
But under the cashless bail system, fewer suspects are expected to be held in jail and would instead be released on a signature bond. Baird is estimating a 30% decline in the inmate population.
That means Yorkville police would have fewer prisoners being held over in jail, but no secure place to book them.
“I’m just finding out about this,” Jensen told aldermen. “I don’t have the financial impact.”
Jensen told the council that Baird had a meeting with all of the municipal police chiefs that morning.
One possibility would be for Yorkville police to use another police headquarters, possibly in Montgomery, to book and release prisoners who are not headed to jail.
There also is the question of what it will cost the department in additional gasoline, vehicle maintenance and potential officer overtime in connection with transporting prisoners to the Kane County jail, a 40-minute trip one way, Jensen said.
Closing the Kendall jail would save between $1 million and $1.5 million a year, Baird said, along with a one-time savings of $2 million in capital improvements that would become unnecessary.
“I understand the reason they are looking into it and the potential it has to offer,” Jensen said of the two sheriffs and their plan.
The new City Hall and police station is being built within the walls of a three-story office building at 651 Prairie Point Drive that was last used as a COVID-19 vaccination center.
The police department will occupy most of the first floor and much of the second, but the plans do not include the addition of a holding area, which must meet strict safety and security standards.
“We could look and make room, but it would be a major change,” Jensen said.
Jensen remained optimistic that a solution will be found, citing what he described as a high level of cooperation among law enforcement agencies in Kendall County.