Kendall County jail to remain open but corrections staff cut, sheriff tells board

Kendall County Sheriff Dwight Baird outlines his plan for scaling back operations at the county jail during a meeting of the Kendall County Board on Aug. 11, 2022. (Mark Foster --

YORKVILLE – The Kendall County jail in Yorkville will remain open but the corrections staff would be reduced by 13 officers under a recommendation from Kendall County Sheriff Dwight Baird.

The county would save up to $1.5 million a year by closing only the jail’s south pod, Baird told the Kendall County Board in a committee meeting Aug. 11.

On July 27, Baird and Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain outlined a plan to close the Kendall jail and house inmates at the Kane lockup in anticipation of a smaller prisoner population when the state’s new cashless bail law takes effect Jan. 1, 2023.

But after detailing several possibilities, including the most drastic option of closing the jail entirely and laying off 31 jail guards, Baird told County Board members that he recommends scaling back operations but leaving the jail open.

While an immediate decline in the jail population is expected, the long-term effects of the cashless bail system remain to be seen, Baird told the board.

“I would recommend keeping the jail open and wait and see,” Baird said. “Every state that has implemented cashless bail sees an initial decline of 15% to 35%” in the prisoner population,” Baird said.

The Kendall jail, with a capacity of 203, typically has about 130 to 140 inmates on a given day, but normally about 50 to 60 are from Kendall County.

The rest are federal prisoners or those from other jurisdictions, particularly Cook County.

Baird is forecasting a 30% drop in the number of those jailed. Under the cashless bail system, persons deemed not to be a threat to the public would be released on a signature bond.

Under the plan Baird now recommends, female inmates would be sent to Kane County. The Kendall jail’s population would consist of male inmates arrested in the county and a limit of 20 out-of-county prisoners.

With five positions at the jail currently vacant, there would be eight direct layoffs, Baird said.

“This would allow us time to examine the impact of the new cashless bail system and see exactly how this will impact Kendall County,” Baird told the board.

Closing the jail entirely would result in the elimination of 31 jobs and save $2.7 million, Baird said, but that idea has been shelved.

“Right now it’s off the table,” Baird said.

Board members said they have been hearing concerns from residents that the county would be less safe if the jail were to be closed.

“I had some old ladies call me and say they can’t leave their houses because we’re going to close the jail,” board member Matt Kellogg said.

Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis has indicated his opposition to closing the jail.

“Losing the jail would have a lot of unintended consequences. There would be intangible costs affecting our operations,” Weis said.

“It’s a necessary evil to have a jail,” Weis said. “We have to have one.”

County office and department heads are due to submit their budget proposals later this month for the fiscal year starting in December.

Baird said he will submit a budget that reflects his proposal for cutting back on the jail inmate population and staff.

Many corrections officers attended the committee meeting and board members expressed a desire to ensure that new jobs are to be found for those who are laid off.