Sheriff: COVID-19 outbreak at Ill. jail shows need for almost $4M system that will allow outside monitoring

With the new cameras in place, COs will instead have a workstation outside each cell block


By Megan Jones
The Beacon-News
        
ST. CHARLES, Ill. — As officials try to contain a COVID-19 outbreak in the Kane County jail, Sheriff Ron Hain said by this fall a new camera system costing almost $4 million should be in place at the facility that will allow corrections officers to non-directly monitor detainees from outside the jail pods.

Before Christmas, around 30 detainees — or about 8% of the jail's population — tested positive for COVID-19. As of Wednesday, the outbreak has doubled to around 65 detainees and 15 staff members, or about 18% of the jail's population.

Hain attributes the increase to corrections officers bringing the virus into the jail pods because the county is under a direct supervision model, similar to the jails in Lake and Will counties which also have seen spikes in COVID-19 cases, he said.

Nate Lanthrum, clinical director of Lighthouse Recovery, leads a group session for recovering addicts living in the recovery pod at the Kane County Jail on April 20, 2021. Looking on is Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain, right.
Nate Lanthrum, clinical director of Lighthouse Recovery, leads a group session for recovering addicts living in the recovery pod at the Kane County Jail on April 20, 2021. Looking on is Kane County Sheriff Ron Hain, right. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

When new detainees enter the jail, they are put in a quarantine cell block for 14 days to ensure the virus does not enter the general population, Hain said.

"So the only way it can come in is from our officers," Hain said. "They have to go home to their families, so that's why I think it's important to create that separation in the future."

Hain hopes that by September, corrections officers will be able to watch detainees from outside the cell pods by using new cameras placed throughout the jail. The project will cost a little more than $3.9 million and will be mostly paid for through federal American Rescue Plan funding.

The county received more than $103.4 million in federal funding designed to assist local economic recovery efforts and help governments address pandemic-related problems.

The jail currently uses the original video camera surveillance system installed in 2008. It is severely antiquated, with some parts inoperable, is difficult to view and video coverage is lacking in many areas of the facility, according to a purchasing resolution for the new system.

With new cameras, corrections officers will instead have a workstation outside each cell block, something that when the jail was built in 2008, "no one would even think of," Hain said.

The resolution for the purchase of the new camera system was passed by Kane County Board members in November. It will take four to six months of engineering and two to three months of installation work before the cameras are operable.

Currently, Hain said detainees and staff members who have COVID-19 have mild symptoms. Defendants have not been brought into court over the last two weeks to try and minimize the spread of the virus.
Cases started to rise at the jail around Dec. 12, he said. Corrections officers are following the standard protocol of using both rapid and PCR tests and then placing detainees in a medical unit with a negative pressure room.

(c)2022 The Beacon-News (Aurora, Ill.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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