(The Center Square) – Illinois county sheriffs are sounding off on an executive order from Gov. J.B. Pritzker regarding the transfer of prisoners from county jails to state prison.
The new order allows transfers, but the transfers are at the discretion of the director of the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Jim Kaitschuck, executive director of the Illinois Sheriffs' Association, said the latest executive order is all show, and county sheriffs continue to be denied transfer requests.
“It’s still at the sole discretion of the director, so that doesn’t mean they are opening the doors to anything,” Kaitschuck said. “It’s like the store with the open sign on the door but the door is locked.”
The governor this week filed Executive Order 50, repealing Executive Order 13, which suspended transfers into state prisons from county jails beginning in March. The filing came less than 24 hours before a scheduled hearing on a lawsuit filed in Logan County against Pritzker and the IDOC on behalf of 89 Illinois sheriffs.
Illinois Department of Corrections officials said the department's top priority is safety.
"Enhanced procedures for county jail intakes and intra-agency transfers were established in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Public Health to keep everyone safe during these uncertain times," Illinois Department of Corrections spokesperson Lindsey Hess said. "Today, the Department resumed intra-agency transfers which will open space in our reception centers to allow for county jail intakes to be appropriately quarantined or isolated. All county jail transfer requests are being carefully reviewed and will be scheduled."
Another sheriff who is going to court is McLean County’s John Sandage. An inmate recently tested positive for COVID-19 at the county's jail.
Sandage said the inmate in question has been in custody for several months and was awaiting transfer to state prison, according to a news release.
Sandage said he has filed suit against Pritzker and IDOC for “failing to take inmates that have been sentenced to their custody, which is creating a health and financial burden to the McLean County Detention Center and the taxpayers of McLean County.”
“There is just a whole lot of things that the governor I don’t think took into consideration when he forced this down the throats of local sheriffs,” Sandage said.
Transfer requirements are difficult for county jails to meet, Kaitschuck said, because COVID-19 test results must be received within three days before the transfer, and it often takes longer than that to get results.
“First of all, there are lots of locations across the state that don’t have access to COVID tests,” Kaitschuck said. “Second of all, that means the sheriff’s now I guess have to pay for the COVID tests.”
Kaitschuck is hopeful an injunction will be granted August 3 when the next hearing in the case is scheduled.