The Crawford County Sheriff’s Office would like to set the record straight concerning the recent erroneous reports of taxpayer money being used to buy tablets, internet, cable TV, and E-Cigarettes for the inmates. We stress that these programs DO NOT USE TAX DOLLARS and are paid for by the inmates.
Sadly, because this is not something we would normally do, the CCSO feels compelled to respond publicly to the misinformation being locally broadcast. In the interest of complete transparency concerning taxpayer funds, we feel the public needs all the facts, not just the "sound bites".
If you would, please take the time to read the following facts.
Issue 1: Computer Tablets and inmate access to the internet.
The decision to implement this into our facility was carefully decided after research and consultations with other corrections facilities where it is already in place. The pros and cons were considered, and we felt that they would benefit the operation at the jail. The use of tablets brings the jail into the twenty-first century in meeting the requirements and mandates of State of Illinois and Federal Government. By utilizing the tablets, we are able to:
- Provide access to a law library for the inmates as required by state law. The law library must be constantly updated to keep up with new statutes and court ruling for the inmates.
- The tablets also go towards the federal requirement to become a PREA (prison Rape Elimination Act) complaint facility. The inmates are able to view information on the tablets regarding PREA and even report PREA violations; to protect the inmates from abuse.
- The tablets also provide the Illinois Jail Standards as well as a digital copy of the Crawford County Jail and Inmate policy handbook. This not only eliminates the need to provide a paper copy of the handbook to the inmates but also other paper forms and documents. This reduces cost of printing, paper, and ink… for instance it is estimated that our annual paper copy of handbooks issued to inmates were between 45,000 and 50,000 pages.
- The tablets provide a grievance process for the inmates as required, one that is more efficient than a paper process, so it can be better tracked and recorded, allowing both sides of the grieving process to be more transparent and accountable. This is often an issue in lawsuits and better protects Crawford County in a frivolous lawsuit.
- Finally, the tablets and their use are provided at NO COST to the county. They were provided in an agreement with the vendor to supply 24 tablets to the Crawford County Jail. In return, the inmates may purchase a 24-hour pass for $4.99 or 1 hour for .99. The pass gives the inmates access to some games, digital books, and email that is monitored by the jail. There is NO OUTSIDE access to the internet such as social media or google searches. However, the inmates are allowed to utilize the tablets for the law library, PREA, and other jail documents for free. Essentially, the tablets are paid for by the inmate’s commissary.
ISSUE 2: CABLE TV
Historically, the jail has had Cable TV for the inmates for many years in a cell called the “recreation room”. The “rec room” was later restructured for additional cells/bedding, to include two isolation and padded cell that were needed. Since then, specially designed TVs were placed into each cellblock providing cable TV. The TVs were purchased by profits from the inmate commissary and so no money was used out of county taxes. The cable programming was provided by an agreement with Mediacom at NO EXTRA COST included with the phone service provided to the jail.
ISSUE 3: E-Cigarettes
Again, Historically the Crawford County Jail allowed smoking by the inmates for many decades. Eventually the jail became smoke free due to change in the state laws. The previous administration at the Sheriff’s Office implemented the sale of E-Cigs in 2014 to inmates. This was done through the jail commissary for the inmates so that it can be controlled. The profits from E-Cigs were used for purchases at the facility for education, recreation, and other purposes in the jail deemed beneficial to the inmates.
The misinformation has implied that the inmates at Crawford County have it too good, or the county is “too accommodating”, that it is an unnecessary burden on the Crawford County tax payer. The truth is the Crawford County Jail is a small facility, with a capacity of almost 50 beds. By some standards, the jail is nearly a maximum-security containment facility. At times the jail is full, with up to four inmates per cell. As you can imagine this can create a stressful environment for the inmates and staff alike. Sometimes the stress can lead to hostility and violence to the inmates and the staff. It does not have a yard for exercise, a library, or even an indoor recreation room. It bodes well for all to provide some amenities to the inmates. By doing so, these can be used to reward good behavior as well as discipline by restricting access. Treating the inmates humanely is best for all involved. These “extras” have been done with MINIMAL cost to Crawford County.
The Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Rutan, and the jail staff are dedicated to operating a facility that exceeds constitutional requirements, Illinois Jail Standards, and houses inmates in a humane, secure, and efficient manner.