Lake Cty Sheriff reaches inmate pact with McHenry Cty Sheriff

For three months, back and forth between the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and the county administration held up the transfer of inmates from a short-staffed Lake County Jail to another facility as the two county departments tried, and ultimately failed, to arrange the transfer by intergovernmental contract.

Due to vacancies, family and medical other absences, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office’s corrections division is down nearly 40% of normal staffing levels, according to the department. Staff issues are a nationwide problem for jails and prisons, according to correctional oversight agencies.

The sheriff eventually had to use his statutory authority to initiate a contract with the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office for the inmate transfer, said Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Chris Covelli, after attempts by the sheriff’s office to get the IGA on county agendas.

The correctional department’s staff shortage created a public safety issue for inmates and staff, Covelli said, so the sheriff’s office pursued an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between Lake County and McHenry County for the housing of inmates at the Woodstock jail, about 35 miles west of Waukegan.

In pursuing an IGA between the counties, Covelli said, the sheriff’s department following what they understood to be best practices for liability and indemnification. An IGA provides more protection for compensation in the event of any damages or accidents from the agreement, according to Covelli. The McHenry County Board approved the IGA on Nov. 21, 2023.

But the contract never made it before the Lake County Board for consideration.

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