SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois Department of Corrections announced Tuesday that it would pause the intake process for new inmates from county jails to state facilities, and it’s already starting to show a strain on local departments.

“We have 22 inmates that the state is statutorily responsible for,” said Pike County Sheriff David Greenwood said. “They’ve made the choice to pause their intakes, but that’s not a choice we have. If we arrest someone, we have to house them.”

Under the normal process, once a person has been convicted and sentenced to serve time in state prison, IDOC would assume custody from the county jails. The Department of Corrections paused intakes in March of 2020 at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but resumed on August 2, 2020.

Now IDOC has said that space at their Graham, Logan, Menard, and Northern Reception and Classification Centers are currently being used to quarantine and isolate incarcerated individuals who have been exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19. These are the centers that county jails transfer prisoners into the state’s custody.

Hancock County Sheriff Travis Duffy said so far, the wait time to get a prisoner transferred into state custody hasn’t been excessive, but prior to this pause he said IDOC was trying to move faster on the process.

Department of Corrections director Rob Jeffreys said in a statement that congregate facilities like IDOC’s present unique challenges to infection controls due to lack of quarantine and isolation space.

“The Department recognizes the hardships county jails face when we cannot accept admissions,” Jeffreys said, “but we must take aggressive action to keep the community and everyone who lives and works in our facilities safe and healthy.”

“It affects us by leaving us footing the bill,” Duffy said. “For housing, feeding, medical bills, it’s all on us until the state takes custody.”

He said there hasn’t been word yet if there would be any reimbursement from the state for expenses during the pause.

“I would rather have to take custody and not get a dime from them,” Greenwood said.

Though Hancock County is currently holding only three people sentenced to IDOC, Greenwood said the 22 prisoner he has makes up about a third of his total capacity in Pike County.

“We’re already bursting at the seams,” he said.

Both Greenwood and Duffy stated that jails being at or near capacity will not affect how their departments handle calls. If there is an arrest made or a warrant executed, they will still be taking those suspects into custody.

IDOC said it’s continuing aggressive response to COVID-19 across facilities. Staff and individuals in custody are temperature checked, masked, symptom-screened and routinely tested. At the time of the statement, 75% of the incarcerated population and 66% of staff are vaccinated against COVID-19.