More correctional officers to be hired at Lake County Jail
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent January 12, 2013 12:42PM
Updated: February 14, 2013 6:45AM
CROWN POINT — Lake County Sheriff John Buncich will get the 18 correctional officers he needs to bring staffing at the jail in compliance with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Now officials must find a way to continually fund the officers since the two-year plan devised to meet the DOJ mandates has expired and no new plan has been created on how the new officer positions will be sustained.
Tuesday the Lake County Council unanimously approved hiring the 18 correctional officers bringing the total number of officers added to the jail to 30, about half the number initially required by the DOJ mandate. An additional 15 mental health workers were previously hired as well.
Dante Rondelli, the council’s financial consultant, said a funding source has been identified for the officers that previously were hired, but no source has been identified to cover the cost of the 18 officers hired last week. The sheriff’s department also will need funding for his insurance fund.
While some funding remains in the general fund, misdemeanor fund and riverboat gambling fund that can be used for the jail, it is not enough to fulfill both the hiring requirements and insurance obligations. Rondelli asked officials to put a moratorium on spending money from those accounts until a subcommittee can crunch the numbers and see how much is there versus how much is needed.
No action on the moratorium was taken.
Buncich said this last round of hiring will meet a compromise agreement with federal officials reducing the number of officers needed to meet the DOJ mandate. If the DOJ determines during its inspections the new staffing levels adequately address past concerns, the sheriff’s department will be off the hook for another 32 officer the DOJ had wanted.
“We area again beginning the year working with the DOJ liaison,” Buncich said.
Buncich said the DOJ inspection team will return in April to conduct another in-depth inspection. The sheriff said if all continues to go hopefully the county will be removed from the inspection list sometime this year.