The number of people locked up in the Kane County Jail has fallen by a third in recent years, saving millions of dollars in local taxes a year. But county justice officials say the reforms they are putting in place are more about keeping people out of jail and ensuring inmates don’t stay there longer than necessary.
As of Thursday morning, the county’s prison population stood at 372. That’s 32% less than the daily average population of 550 three years ago.
“That’s a startling number for me,” Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain said as he announced the numbers to members of the county’s board of directors Thursday.
Part of the change is to place more people charged with non-violent crimes on electronic home surveillance than in the past.
In any given month, up to 70 people are awaiting trial or serving a sentence. The county suspended electronic home surveillance at the end of 2017 due to cost and personnel issues. Hain brought it back in 2019 in what has proven to be a more cost-effective method for the county that allows many of the monitored people to keep their jobs.
It costs $ 62 a day to house someone in jail. The county charges people being watched $ 10 per day for the monitoring devices, which is more than recouping the $ 3.75 it costs the county.
Population reduction is also a system-wide effort to speed up cases involving people who have been in prison for more than a year.
When Chief Justice Clint Hull made it a priority, 107 people in jail had been waiting for a trial or decision for over a year. That number has now dropped to 70, a reduction of 35%.
Hull told members of the county’s board of directors he placed a high priority on “not putting people in jail any longer than they should.”
“We have this population out there that we need to focus on so that we can resolve cases,” Hull said. “Either guilty or not guilty, but we have to move on.”
There are eight people in the prison who have been there for more than three years, Hull said. These cases involve murder or predatory sexual assault, which involves many processes of finding evidence. This is one of the main areas the county system can improve upon, he said.
He cited problems with county computers not working well with the many different systems available to local police departments. This can often delay the dispatch of police reports, which can be thousands of pages long, to the state attorney’s office and, subsequently, to defense attorneys.
This process needs to become smoother and faster, Hull said.
When there were delays, the judges would postpone these cases for four or five months. These cases now have more frequent hearing dates.
“We have to remove these barriers,” Hull said. “Some of these cases are due to the fact that we are not able to do it as efficiently as we would like. I hate to hear that a case is going on for a few more months because we need to be discovered. not point fingers at just anyone, but when you analyze these cases, that’s often where the problem lies. “
The drive to keep people out of jail and cut down on time spent in jail resulted in savings of $ 2.4 million for 2021, Hain said. This is in addition to the savings of $ 1.6 million achieved last year.