CLINTON — After a couple of years shifting local prisoners to the Piatt County jail. DeWitt County will begin housing its own inmates again April 1.
About two years ago, budgetary issues forced then sheriff Jered Shofner to strike a deal to house local prisoners in Piatt County. An agreement with Cook County to house some of its inmates went sour, and revenue to the jail began to dwindle.
“They ended up not sending us as many prisoners as they originally promised,” new sheriff Mike Walker told the Journal last week.
This was due in part because some drug offenses that once drew jail time for offenders now result more often in fines.
“They’re trying to keep people out of jail,” Walker said.
In the process of housing some of those prisoners, the jail also sustained some damage.
During 2018, the county board approved some upgrades to bring the jail up to standards for housing prisoners. This included replacing the lighting with new LED fixtures, repairing and replacing some plumbing fixtures and replacing the control console in the jail.
Just a few years ago, the jail enjoyed strong revenue because it housed inmates for the U.S. Marshals Service. Prisoners would stay in Clinton while awaiting hearings in Federal court in Springfield or Champaign. During that period, DeWitt County jail housed between 50-80 prisoners on a regular basis.
But the number of Federal prisoners housed in Clinton began dropping rapidly. Many of those prisoners were affected by the same reduction in drug offense punishments that changed Clinton’s arrangement with the Cook County Sheriff’s Department.
DeWitt County had been billing $65,000-$100,000 a month while housing Federal inmates, Walker said. When that dropped in 2016, billing fell to $12,000-$18,000 a month.
Walker said he expects to house between 15-20 local inmates regularly once the jail again accepts prisoners. He said he is also exploring ways to increase jail revenue in the future.