Sheriffs in Illinois are frustrated with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s decision to temporarily suspend the transfer of prisoners from county jails to state prisons, a move some have said could put county officers at risk.

The move was made to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among prison inmates, but Illinois Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jim Kaitschuk says county jailers are now in harm’s way.

“The risk for those folks in the jails is going to be higher because there are much more people coming in from on the street,” Kaitschuk said.

The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association has asked the governor to re-evaluate the decision so sheriffs can transfer healthy people out of local jails to other appropriate locations.

The ACLU of Illinois said the governor’s executive order is a sensible decision to protect the health and well-being of people in prisons and the sheriffs should follow the guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and reduce prison populations.

McLean County Sheriff Jon Sandage said he wants to know who is going to pay the extra costs incurred by the county.

“Are we stuck with the cost of guarding them?” he said. “There is 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.”

At Stateville Correctional Center, 12 inmates have been hospitalized.

Some of those have required ventilators, according to Illinois Department of Public Health officials.

As of Monday, 77 inmates with symptoms were isolated at the facility. In addition, 11 staff members are being isolated.

In response, the Illinois Department of Corrections is taking steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 in prisons by using isolation, quarantine and personal protective equipment. Staff members undergo daily temperature checks, according to a news release.

All prisons with a confirmed case have been put on lockdown.

Kevin Bessler reports on statewide issues in Illinois for the Center Square. He has over 30 years of experience in radio news reporting throughout the Midwest.

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