Henry County Jail Needs Work To Fix 14 Year Violation - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Henry County Jail Needs Work To Fix 14 Year Violation

Updated: Oct 9, 2012 10:14 PM CDT

The Henry County Jail has repeatedly broken state rules over how it can house women.

For 14 years, Illinois has warned the County it needs to keep female inmates who are convicted of a crime, separate from women who have only been charged, and are waiting for a court date.

The County says it can't afford to separate women who are convicted of crimes and are guilty from those who have only been charged with a crime.

And are innocent until proven guilty.

The violation puts the County at risk of lawsuits and losing prisoner contracts.

Contracts the jail gets for holding inmates for Cook County and the U.S. Marshals.

Both contracts require the jail to meet all regulations.

But until the jails construction costs are paid off, the County says it will have to risk losing those contracts.

"We really don't have any recourse other than to use what we have, mainly because of the design of the jail, we just don't have the space to put them," says Henry County Sheriff Jim Padilla.

He doesn't want to violate Illinois jail standards. But the current County jail has one major design flaw. It only has one cellblock for women. Automatically putting the County on the wrong side of every State inspection.

"I don't know that there is any extra space that could be retro-fitted to make additional space for the females," says Padilla.

Illinois requires every convicted person in a jail to be separate from those who have only been charged with a crime. All female inmates are housed together in Henry County regardless of their status. And they can't just be moved into other cell blocks. They have to be completely separate from male inmates as well.

"Building an annex, or retro-fitting a room would be very costly, and in today's economy, the money's just not available," says Padilla.

Henry County Board Chairman Tim Wells says, "We're talking some serious, seven figure type dollars."

Wells says the budget has no room for a jail re-do right now. The County is still paying off the loans from the now ten year old jail's construction.

"It's just too expensive to completely redesign, rebuild, basically, a whole annex for the jail, and for the 14 year violation, if they don't say anything more about, we're not going to say anything more about it," says Wells.

He says the County will have to live with the violations for another four years. That will allow the loans to be paid off. Giving the County budget more room for a major expense.

"We're just going to have to take a calculated risk," says Wells.

The Henry County jail administrator says both Cook County and the U.S. Marshals are aware of the state violation.

But both groups are still willing to do business with the jail.