The video visitation system for inmates at the Will County jail was expected to be partially restored after a lightning strike disabled the system during the June 30 storm.
Much of south Naperville is in Will County.
The 800 pre-trial inmates, who have been allowed two 30-minute video chats per week, have had none in the past 10 days, said Will County Sheriff Deputy Chief Michael O’Leary, who serves as jail warden.
“People have been very patient, but we are starting to get complaints,” he told the executive committee of the Will County Board during Thursday’s meeting. Such visits are a “positive incentive” for inmates.
“If they can visit with their attorney and family they are in a better mood,” O’Leary said. “We need to get this back up as soon as possible.”
Officials were working quickly to repair the jail’s analog system, but it may not be fully restored until early August, he said.
The committee agreed to move forward with $93,755 in repairs from Stanley Convergent Security Solutions, which will be voted on by the full county board soon.
The full extent of the damage will not be known until technicians begin repairs, Deputy Chief Ken Kaupus said.
“This is an emergency situation,” he said. “We cannot wait for the insurance company.”
No one realized the system was down until the following Tuesday morning, when staff arrived for work at 8 a.m.
“There was some initial angst. There was a lot of damage as a result of that storm. People understand, but they expect us to move quickly,” Kaupas said.
Also knocked out by the storm were two sallyports — secured entrances into the jail’s garage — and its food freezer.
Inmates were notified that the video system was down, as were the Will County state’s attorney’s office, public defenders, chief judge, and Illinois Department of Corrections, officials said.
All agencies have cooperated and have been meeting daily to resolve the situation, O’Leary said.
County officials said the repairs are covered by insurance, with a $25,000 deductible, but a new digital system, estimated to cost $434,000 would not be covered.
The video center, located across the street from the jail in downtown Joliet, connects to 135 booths at the prison, where families and attorneys can see and chat with inmates. By Friday, O’Leary said, they hoped to have 15 booths functioning and allow one 30-minute visit per week. Visits must be scheduled in advance.
The jail staff is required to provide one 20-minute visit per week, but have exceeded that by allowing two 30-minute visits.
“The inmates have come to expect that,” Deputy Chief Brian Fink said. “We expect there will be lawsuits over this.”
Typically, the jail’s video center has 4,000 to 5,000 video visits each month, O’Leary said. The video system was installed in 2008, and is safer, easier to control, and requires less staff than in-person visits. The vast majority of inmates’ visits are by the video system, he said.Tags: weather, Will County Jail