Lake County has a severe corrections officer staffing shortage, prompting the request to house inmates across the county line.
The proposed contract states McHenry County would take up to 150 inmates from the Lake County jail. In a recent McHenry County Board finance committee meeting, Sheriff Robb Tadelman said the average daily population at McHenry County Jail was 160 inmates.
Sandra Salgado, the McHenry County Sheriff’s business manager, said the jail population has about 35 to 50 fewer inmates since the SAFE-T Act took effect in September, but the population is slowly increasing.
According to McHenry County documents, the proposed agreement would go for 12 months, and could be renewed for another year.
In the meantime, Lake County is trying to fill vacancies for corrections officers.
“Over the course of the next year, we will continue working to fill our correctional officer vacancies and it is our hope we can resume normal operations in our jail as quickly as possible,” Lake County Sheriff Deputy Chief Chris Covelli wrote in an email.
McHenry County also is working to hire corrections officers. Salgado said the sheriff’s office does not have a shortage, but is hiring corrections officers in advance of several retirements in the coming months.
The contract would provide an additional source of revenue for McHenry County, as Lake County would pay McHenry County $100 per inmate daily.
However, McHenry County would be on the hook for expenses such as food and health care for the inmates, and officials at a McHenry County Board meeting estimated the net revenue would be $70 per inmate per day.
Wellpath provides the health care to both McHenry and Lake counties, according to McHenry County officials, and the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office has been in contact with health care and food vendors about the potential uptick in inmates housed at the McHenry County jail.
Lake County inmates housed at the McHenry County jail in Woodstock would be transported to Lake County court in Waukegan by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, officials said Thursday. That’s about a two-hour round trip between the two locations.
In the finance meeting, Tadelman told the board that he views the agreement as helping out Lake County.
“They’re in a red zone right now,” Tadelman said of the staff shortage in Lake County.
In an email to the Northwest Herald, Covelli said the counties have been discussing the issue for several months.
“We are in the midst of a correctional officer staffing crisis at our jail. Currently, we are short over 70 correctional officers [down nearly 40%], which has required our staff to be forced into working double shifts very frequently, in order to maintain minimum staffing requirements, negatively impacting our staff’s quality of life and creating safety concerns at our jail,” Covelli wrote.
McHenry County Board members have expressed support for the agreement.
Terri Greeno, R-Crystal Lake, said the agreement helps both counties, and McHenry County has the resources to be able to help out.
“It allows us to help support Lake County,” Greeno said.
Board member Lou Ness, D-Woodstock, said she wasn’t “opposed” to the agreement.
“I see it more as helping them out,” Ness said.
Brian Sager, R-Woodstock, said during last week’s finance committee meeting, “This is something we need to move forward.”
McHenry County lost some revenue when its contract with the federal government to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees at the county jail was canceled about two years ago as a result of a new state law that ended immigrant detention in Illinois. According to previous reporting from the Northwest Herald, the county received $8.7 million in fiscal 2021 through the ICE contract.
While both counties’ officials said the proposed agreement has nothing to do with the Illinois SAFE-T Act, McHenry County officials have discussed the new law during this year’s budget process. The SAFE-T Act was a wide-ranging set of justice system reforms that included a controversial ban on cash bail for those charged with crimes.
McHenry County documents projected the county could lose $300,000 this fiscal year due to the loss of cash bail.
McHenry County officials said Thursday that they anticipate inmates from Lake County would begin arriving at the McHenry County jail about the start of the new year, if the contract is approved.
• Northwest Herald reporter Amanda Marrazzo contributed to this report.