Mercer County benefiting from Warren County Jail closure

ALEDO, Illinois-- Mercer County Jail is two-thirds full after taking on 27 inmates from Warren County.

The Warren County Jail closed after an employee unexpectedly quit, leaving the jail so understaffed it couldn't function anymore.

"I was expecting it to happen maybe next week, late, or sometime next week," Mercer County Sheriff David Staley said. "So it was a bit of a surprise when it happened on Wednesday."

While it was a bit of a shock, the neighboring sheriff was prepared.

"[The Warren County Sheriff] and I have been talking for probably a month that he was afraid that he was going to get into this situation," Sheriff Staley said. "And then Wednesday morning he called me and goes, 'Okay. Today's the day. I don't have the staff to man my jail. So I have to do something today.' I said, 'No problem.'"

Twenty-three inmates were transported from the jail in Monmouth to the one in Aledo. Since then, Warren County has made four more arrests.

"We have the space," Sheriff Staley said. "We have the staff. We're more than happy to help out a fellow sheriff who is having a trouble."

Besides helping a sheriff in a tough situation, Mercer County is also benefiting from the inmate transfer. It costs $40 per inmate each day to stay at the Mercer County Jail.

Sheriff Staley explained that roughly $25-$30 goes towards housing, feeding and providing medical care for those inmates. The rest goes to the county's general fund.

"So it does help with the county government's cash flow as far as having some income," he said.

Housing inmates from out-of-county isn't new for Mercer County. Sheriff Staley said the jail was expanded about five years ago specifically to take on inmates from other counties.

He said only 14 inmates are actually from Mercer. The rest are either federal prisoners or from Henderson and Warren Counties. Cook County used to house inmates there before pulling them for financial reasons.

"It was kind of a sad night when I had to go to the [Mercer County] Board and tell them we were losing the 15 to 20 Cook County inmates we had," Staley recalled. "The other side of that is next Tuesday night at our board meeting, I'll be able to report to the board that we started out with 23 Warren County inmates. They've made four new arrests."

The Warren County Board is now looking at ways to hire new staff and reopen the jail. Until then, it'll cost about $30,000 a month to house its inmates in Mercer County.

Sheriff Staley said it takes four to five months to fully hire and train new correctional officers.