Cook County sheriff resumes transferring inmates to state prisons to begin serving sentences

The office began transferring people this week, Kathy Carmody, a spokeswoman for the office, said Thursday.

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Cook County Jail.

Cook County Jail

Sun-Times file

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart has transferred 70 detainees who have been convicted of crimes to state correctional facilities to begin serving their sentences – and is planning to send hundreds more — after a downstate judge ruled that Gov. J.B. Pritzker can’t bar such transfers because of coronavirus concerns. 

The sheriff began transferring people this week, with 70 in state custody as of Thursday afternoon, and another 481 still to be transferred, said Kathy Carmody, a spokeswoman for the office. 

On Monday, Logan County Circuit Court Judge Jonathan C. Wright issued a preliminary injunction requiring the state to accept transfers from local sheriff’s offices to the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Wright wrote that Pritzker doesn’t have “the authority to suspend the substantive provisions of the Illinois Unified Code or Corrections.”

The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association sued the governor and the Illinois Corrections Department in May over Pritzker’s March 26 order that suspended all admissions to state prisons to prevent the spread of COVID-19 from local to state facilities.

As a result of the state Corrections Department’s “refusal to accept transfer of offenders caused by the Governor’s stay at home orders, the Plaintiffs have suffered irreparable harm in the form of nearing or exceeding capacity to house offenders and the increased risk of housing offenders at an elevated level when considered in context of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the judge wrote.

Dart, along with other members of the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, filed a motion earlier this summer in Logan County, asking Wright to approve the injunction that would force the state to begin accepting county jail detainees who have been tried and sentenced. Some have already served their sentences, but need to be transferred to the state’s custody before their release.

Arguments in the case resume Friday.

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