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Sandage and 5 other Illinois sheriffs win court battle over delayed inmate transfers

Eric Stock

A judge has ruled in favor of McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage and several other Illinois sheriffs in a lawsuit over the delayed transfer of inmates deemed not fit for trial.

Sangamon County judge Karen Tharp ordered the Illinois Department of Human Services to notify county jails within 20 days that those inmates would be taken to state-run mental health facilities.

Sandage called it "aggravating" that the Pritzker administration used pandemic-related orders to put additional costs on county jails for two years.

“We felt that the governor was abusing his ability to sign executive orders to get the state out of taking care of their responsibilities,” he said.

Sandage said the McLean County jail is hosting 10 inmates awaiting transfer to DHS mental health facilities, adding previously housing those inmates had cost the county $51,000 as of mid-July.

Sandage said county jails aren't adequately staffed, or don't have the authority to give some inmates the treatment they need.

“What we run into a lot of times are inmates that are refusing to take their medications that will at least stabilize them or sometimes make them better and we can’t force them,” Sandage said.

Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell filed the lawsuit in June. Sandage joined the lawsuit last month along with four other sheriffs: Jack Clague, Knox County; John Lakin, Madison County; Gerald Bustos, Rock Island County; and Jim Root, Macon County.

The state could appeal the ruling.

Sandage said it’s not clear whether the state will reimburse counties for their costs. He said McLean County is still waiting on reimbursement from the Illinois Department of Corrections for inmates housed at county jails at the height of the COVID pandemic.

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Eric Stock is a reporter at GLT.