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Lake County Jail awaits federal inspection

CROWN POINT ­­­— The latest round of inspections of the Lake County Jail by the U.S. Department of Justice begins Monday.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said inspectors from the DOJ will conduct a detailed inspection of the jail Monday through Wednesday and will provide a report Thursday morning in an executive session before the Lake County Council and Board of Commissioners.

“We’ve been prepping all week,” Buncich said.

Inspectors will be looking in part to see if the jail administration has been able to sustain the progress that has been made in correcting deficiencies in staff, conditions, medical and mental health that arose during Sheriff Roy Dominguez’s administration.

The DOJ inspections are a result of a civil lawsuit by inmates alleging inhumane conditions and inadequate care at the jail. In a 2010 settlement with the Department of Justice the county agreed to correct 99 deficiencies including reducing overcrowding, replacing the medical admisntrator and repairing areas of the jail among other items. Cost to bring the jail into compliance is about $8 million. Last year all 99 deficiencies cited by the DOJ in 2010 were moved out of non-compliance.

As a result of the inspections, the sheriff has changed the jail’s health care provider, added 30 staffers and is in the process of conducting a multimillion-dollar improvement to the plumbing. Steps have also been taken to reduce jail overcrowding, including the implementation of a home-monitoring program.

Buncich said work is set to begin in June moving the mental health department from the old jail, built in 1972, to the newer section, constructed in 1998, which is larger and more open. The change was one of the previous recommendations by DOJ inspectors.

Inspectors will grade the jail’s performance as red, yellow and green. Currently the jail has no outstanding red issues and only a handful of yellow that were targeted for improvement.

Buncich said he is looking forward to the inspection and having the DOJ find the jail in compliance. He expects there will be a few more inspections to continue to gauge sustained progress.

“We’ve been working constantly since the last time they were here. I want to get out from under this thing,” Buncich said.



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