File Photo – McHenry County Jail in Woodstock | Photo: Google Street View

The McHenry County Jail is now housing 150 Lake County Jail inmates following a recently-entered agreement with the two facilities due to an ongoing severe staffing shortage.

Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg entered into the agreement with McHenry County Sheriff Robb Tadelman, the two sheriff’s offices announced on January 3.

The agreement states the McHenry County Jail will temporarily house up to 150 Lake County Jail inmates.

“This transfer is necessary to alleviate safety concerns amid a staffing crisis at the Lake County Jail,” Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said.

With current employee vacancies, staff on leave for medical and family reasons and other absences, the Lake County Sheriff’s Corrections Division is down nearly 40% of its normal staffing levels.

Corrections officers were being forced to monitor a higher number of inmates, leading to considerable safety issues, Covelli said.

Based on the staff-to-inmate ratio, Covelli said correctional officers cannot adequately perform their duties to ensure both they and the inmates remain safe.

The agreement, which is for one year but can be extended up to two years, requires Lake County to pay $100 per day per inmate housed at the McHenry County Jail.

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The McHenry County Jail began receiving Lake County inmates three weeks ago.

As of Wednesday, the McHenry County Jail was housing the maximum agreed-upon limit of 150 inmates from the Lake County Jail.

“Overall, the transfer has gone very well, allowing us to temporarily close several pods, resulting in a decrease in forced overtime, which is beneficial to our staff’s well being. It’s also drastically reduced the mounting safety concerns we had,” Covelli said.

McHenry County corrections staff transport all inmates to and from each jail and ensure those being temporarily housed in McHenry County are back in Lake County for their required court appearances.

“It is expected with the reduction in overtime costs, reduction in cost for meals/medical care/other items for those housed in McHenry County, that there will be little to no additional financial costs incurred by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office,” Covelli said.

The Lake County inmates temporarily being housed in McHenry County have the ability to meet with their attorneys virtually in a private setting via Zoom, in person or by phone.

They also have the ability to communicate with anyone they choose, as they do in Lake County, unless restricted by the court.

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Both Lake County Correctional Administration and McHenry County Correctional Administration will conduct regular operational reviews and assessments of the new program to determine its feasibility and operational efficiency, Covelli said.

“I am very thankful for the assistance of McHenry County Sheriff Robb Tadelman and his team. I cannot praise my correctional employees enough for all they’ve done during this staffing shortage,” Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg said earlier this month.

“We will continue working toward filling staffing vacancies and I will continue advocating to Lake County leaders that increased pay for corrections staff, retention and sign-on bonuses are essential to recruiting and retaining high-quality employees,” Idleburg said.

While Illinois sheriffs have statutory authority to house inmates in adjoining county jails, Idleburg and staff at the Lake County Sheriff’s Office “worked extensively” with Lake County Government leadership to create and present an intergovernmental agreement with McHenry County for the Lake County Board’s consideration.

The McHenry County Board approved the agreement in November but the intergovernmental agreement proposal was never presented to the Lake County Board due to Lake County Government leadership removing it from the agenda multiple times, Covelli said.

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“Due to the IGA being removed from several agendas, Sheriff Idleburg moved forward with an agreement between the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, as allowed by law,” Covelli said.

McHenry County Sheriff Robb Tadelman said he is happy and honored to assist Idleburg and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office in housing inmates in their time of need.

“The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office is committed to working with our local law enforcement partners to assure the mission of safety is not lost,” Tadelman said.

Permanently and temporarily holding inmates in adjoining county jails is not an uncommon practice and is done in various counties throughout Illinois.

Lake County previously used the Boone County Jail for temporarily holding inmates when the Lake County Jail was under renovation.

“It is the goal of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office to increase correctional officer staffing levels and return the temporarily housed inmates to Lake County as quickly as possible,” Covelli said.

Covelli said the sheriff’s office is diligently working to recruit corrections officers to fill the vacancies.