The facility is being forced to care for mentally ill inmates, due to the closure of state health centers equipped to meet their needs
The Current Situation:
The McLean County Jail is busy day and night with new arrivals.
"Our booking area has 14 cells that were designed to hold incoming inmates on a temporary basis," said Sheriff Mike Emery.
Problem is, the past year; each room has been filled with people deemed "unfit for trial."
"The purpose of sending them to the state facility is to get them mentally healthy so that they can come back to us and understand what's going on in our judicial process," Emery explained.
But with fewer health centers available to provide care, staff members at the McLean County Jail are being forced to fill in.
A role, that's taking its toll on Sergeant Cathy Maaks.
"Our biggest fear is one of our officers are going to get hurt, that's a daily fear," said Maaks.
Plus, the booking area is constantly busy, which tends to set inmates off.
"The lights are on, the doors are banging, it's just the nosiest place in the jail, and they don't get quiet time," said Emery.
That's when vandalism can happen.
"The last (window) was broken with a little metal piece that came off in the shower, and it hit the glass just right and it just shattered it," Maaks recalled.
But, Emery says for now, booking cells are the best place for these inmates to be.
"We can't put them in general population because they could be exploited, abused, fights...all those issues that do go on."
Until the state gets its finances in order, the McLean County Jail doesn't see the situation changing anytime soon.
Officers just hope to find a solution to what's now a local problem.
Long Term Plan?
County leaders are researching ways to help the jail better manage mental health inmates.
Possible plans include creating a new wing designed for those with severe psychological problems.