By: Diane Benjamin
The McLean County Board Justice Committee met yesterday. Sheriff Sandage read a prepared statement pertaining mostly to the local elected officials and social justice warriors demanding he release inmates at the McLean County jail, Since he did not release a printed copy of his remarks, and I know few of you ever watch videos I post, I transcribed his remarks below. The video is available below if you want to watch.
Of course I had to take liberties with formatting, but his remarks are vital to dispelling what the local socialists are clogging the phone lines demanding. They are endangering the safety of the general public with their nonsense.
Read his remarks from around 4:40 pm yesterday. Below those is the response from one of the radical groups, obviously they weren’t listening. They responded less than 1/2 hour later.
Sheriff: I written copy would have been easier, correct any parts I got wrong!
I was recently presented with a list of questions by Chairman Gordon in reference to concerns of how the Sheriff’s office is dealing with Covid-19 pandemic as it relates to our jail population.
In the last few weeks I’ve been contacted by members of social justice groups that are encouraged by certain elected officials to demand that the Sheriff’s office release prisoners as part of their no cash bail initiative. In reference to this let me use member Chung’s words from a recent letter to the editor in reference to this pandemic originating in China, and I quote: “To make a pointless political statement in a time of crisis not only insults me but also threatens the safety of our friends and neighbors.”
What these social justice groups, who are supported by some of our very own board members, are causing is unsafe and tense environment in our correctional facility not only for staff but for inmates. Group members are being asked to flood phone lines with their message. Also inmates are being contacted by members on the outside of their efforts and what they should do as an inmate to help.
When outside influences attempt to cause unrest in a corrections environment you have gone too far. I have received repeated demands and even threats to free prisoners by those claiming to be social justice warriors who don’t even know how the justice system works.
The Sheriff runs the jail, however randomly releasing inmates would put me in contempt of every order issued which demands that each inmate be held. While some believe that I should ignore these orders that pertain to literally every inmate that is in jail for more than 48 hours, my staff and I do not violate judge’s orders.
McLean County has been fortunate for years to have a Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to deal with jail population issues. This group which includes the Sheriff’s office, the State’s Attorney, Public Defender, County Administration, County Board members, members of the defense bar, members of the general public, and the judiciary have worked on a daily basis to make sure that our jail is housing only those inmate that are truly a danger to the public when at all possible.
In the last thirty days we have reduced our jail population by approximately one-third through an incredible amount of cooperation by all involved in the CJCC. A good portion of that one-third reduction comes from cooperation with the judiciary to suspend the sentences of those under judge’s orders to complete periodic imprisonment.
On March 12th I reduced traffic to the jail by suspending on-site video visitation at our facility and directed that all visitation be done remotely. We were the first correctional facility in the state to implement this and others quickly followed. Our telephone and video visitation system is under contract approved by the County Board and does not give me the ability to simply unilaterally waive fees. Just as we abide by judge’s orders in the Sheriff’s office, we abide by the contracts entered into by you the County Board.
To complain about fees and the inability to visit inmates is offensive when we have sick and elderly in our hospitals and nursing homes who are also not able to receive visitors.
Any inmate with pre-existing medical conditions and that would be considered high risk should they contract COVID-19, are constantly checked by jail medical staff and there is not one inmate in our custody with health issues that should be released because of the nature of their charges and the dangers they would pose to the general public.
Bond reduction hearings continue to take place at the Law and Justice Center and multiple inmates have brought their concerns to the judiciary. Multiple judges have remarked during these hearing the COVID is not a Get-Out-Of–Jail free card. Should any judge issue an order releasing an inmate from custody, we will process that order immediately.
Our staff is constantly cleaning our areas of the jail both to prevent any potential contamination and they have done an outstanding job under very stressful conditions. These correctional officers not only have to deal with the increased tension caused by outside influences but have to be concerned they will contract the virus and in turn expose their family.
In reviewing the charges of every single inmate in our custody which includes 15 people on murder or attempted murder charges, numerous on non-probational high level drug offenses, illegal weapons charges for domestic violence offenses, there is not a one that myself or anyone in the CJCC would feel comfortable releasing into the general public.
I am confident in the abilities of our jail medical staff in dealing with any potential cases of COVID-19 that may arise and their ability to deal those conditions. Our jail population is the lowest it has been in over 20 years which allows us space to isolate inmates who may present with symptoms. Our staff is screened daily for temperature and health related questions and are wearing masks as they conduct their daily duties.
On April 2nd I ordered the facility to be put on lock-down status for the safety and social distancing needs of the staff and inmates. It will remain on lock-down status for at least 2 weeks. I have approximately 140 employees who are essential to our operation and do not have the ability to work from home. They are excelling under difficult circumstances. They deserve your thanks and appreciation. I ask for your prayers and patience as we deal with a situation that is new to all of us. McLean County should be extremely proud of how well all aspects of our criminal justice system works together for the safety and benefit of our community. We are leaders in not only the State but in the nation for how we collaborate on issues and will continue to do so.
I ask the County Board to put aside political partisanship and back our most important asset which is our employees and not those groups who are using this pandemic to push their political agenda.
h/t a reader