File Photo – Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Illinois Department of Corrections has paused inmate transfers from county jails to state prisons after COVID-19 outbreaks were reported at their correctional facilities.

Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) Public Information Officer Lindsey Hess said the Graham, Logan Menard and Northern Reception and Classification Centers experienced outbreaks.

Those correctional facilities are where inmates are transferred from county jails.

State officials notified county officials Tuesday afternoon of the halt in transfers, Hess said.

IDOC is using space normally reserved for new inmate admissions to safely quarantine and isolate already incarcerated inmates who have been exposed or tested positive for COVID-19.

IDOC will continue to accept inmates from county jails who are scheduled to be released from custody the same day they are transferred, Hess said.

Officials will consider requests for transfers due to special circumstances like medical and safety concerns.

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More space for county jail intakes is expected to become available as COVID-19 cases decline, Hess said.

At the beginning of the pandemic, an executive order by Gov. J.B. Pritzker halted transfers to state prisons, prompting a lawsuit.

Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli told Lake and McHenry County Scanner that 18 male inmates and two female inmates, who have been sentenced to state prison, will remain housed at the Lake County Jail due to the outbreaks.

“We anticipate this number to continue to rise on a daily basis as long as IDOC maintains this status. Increasing the jail inmate population at our facility creates a burden on both jail operations and also creates budgetary strains,” Covelli said.

IDOC is responding to the outbreaks by checking temperatures of staff and inmates, screening for symptoms, routinely testing and having people wear face coverings.

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Hess said 75% of those incarcerated and 66% of IDOC staff are vaccinated.

Officials are also offering multiple on-site opportunities to receive a booster shot, thousands of which have already taken advantage of, Hess added.

“IDOC continues to work closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health, infectious disease consultants, and correctional agencies across the nation to ensure best practices and protect the health and safety of those inside its facilities,” Hess said.

IDOC Director Rob Jeffreys said, “Congregate living facilities present unique infection control challenges due to the lack of quarantine and isolation space.”

“The Department recognizes the hardships county jails face when we cannot accept admissions, but we must take aggressive action to keep the community and everyone who lives and works in our facilities safe and healthy,” Jeffreys added.