Dropping Winn. Co. Jail population saves taxpayers' money - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Dropping Winn. Co. Jail population saves taxpayers' money

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

The Winnebago County Jail just got a little cheaper for taxpayers. That's because it just sent a record number of inmates from county lock-up to the prison system.

 

The Winnebago County Sheriff's Department sent 41 people to the Department of Corrections, the largest amount in a week. The prisoners included two people convicted of murder and a violent sex offender.

 

The Winnebago County Jail is only allowed to ship prisoners to the department of corrections once a week. Besides this week's record number the sheriff's department says there's been unusually numbers of people transported the last few weeks.

 

"A year and a half ago we were running 1150 to 1200 prisoners. After we shipped we were down to 917," says Sheriff Dick Meyers.

 

Meyers says getting these people out of jail and into the prison system is key. A few years ago the sheriff's department warned the jail was so crowded they were close to having to open another pod. That would have meant even more money from taxpayers to hire staff and house prisoners.

 

"The backlog has always been from getting the people through the process of going to court and found guilty or pleading guilty and then getting them through the sentencing phases," says Sheriff Meyers.

 

Winnebago County State's Attorney Joe Bruscato believes that has sped up because of efficiencies added in the justice system from the judges to the circuit clerk's office. But a bigger part may be from the county hiring more people to Public Defender's Office.

 

"At the Public Defender's Office there's more individuals to represent those who need the assistance and with more people available they can handle more cases. And as more cases get handled, more cases get concluded," says Bruscato.

 

The state's attorney believes the jail population will continue to drop as more county's diversion programs go place. Those are designed to keep low level offenders out of jail and put them into mental health or drug programs.

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