Jail design plans ‘near final’

• Committee considers tech upgrades, jail design, better data analysis

County officials gave a presentation at the county courthouse Feb. 4 to the Winnebago County Public Safety Committee asking for the creation of two new technology-related positions that would be used to increase the efficiency of the criminal justice system. The committee also examined what Gary Burdett, project manager for the proposed new jail, said were “near final” design drawings for the $93-$130 million, 988 to 1,500-bed jail.

The jail’s architectural team, led by Iowa-based The Durrant Group Inc., combined elements from three previous designs to create a fourth that Burdett said will probably be submitted soon to the county board for approval.

Highlights of the exterior changes include larger and fewer windows to make the structure appear “more office like;” red and limestone-colored precast concrete to match the color of other downtown buildings; two memorial sites on the east and west ends with open space; and a sidewalk, tree-and shrub-lined perimeter, bounded by West State, Winnebago and reconfigured Chestnut streets.

Public Safety Committee Member Chris Johnson (R-4) said the architectural team’s response to the public’s input about the jail design at previous meetings is exactly what committee members were seeking. The architectural team said the fourth design was a product of the Jan. 28 public meeting at Memorial Hall.

Information and technology

Winnebago County State’s Attorney Paul Logli lobbied for two new full-time positions whose job would be to gather, process and disseminate information from the proposed criminal justice center, which may house the jail, sheriff’s department and courtrooms. Logli said the courthouse currently has 200-300 computers in its network, which makes the job of training employees and servicing a network that large too much for one person.

According to Logli, each day Winnebago County prints paper copies of court dockets that could be posted on television monitors. Logli said hiring two employees, installing monitors and technological upgrades will cut paper use, increasing the efficiency of the criminal justice system. He said these measures will allow his office to receive and report information that would impact decision making by the last half of this year. Other county officials said they were specifically asking for two “applications support system” personnel.

Logli said currently, “We’re not documenting what we’re doing very well.” During The Rock River Times’ 2002 series “The criminal justice-industrial complex,” various county agencies, including Logli’s, could not produce information to help identify bottlenecks in the criminal justice system.

The information requested in 2002 was: the number of continuances filed by the State’s Attorney’s office, Public Defender’s office, or by the defendant’s private attorney; number of those arrested that were released on personal recognizance bonds; number of those arrested that were denied bond; average bond dollar amounts, by judge and type of offense—specifically drug offenses, burglary, armed robbery and aggravated assault; percent of the average daily jail population that are black or Hispanic; number of parolees rearrested; number of inmates on home monitoring; and number of inmates on work release.

Logli responded to the information request in an Oct. 30, 2002, article, “I don’t know any county that keeps that kind of information.”

Jail design

In response to criticism that closing Horsman Street will inhibit north-south traffic, Burdett said, “I don’t think there’s anything I’ve seen that says we should stop” implementing existing plans to permanently close the street.

Burdett added that parking issues raised at the Jan. 28 meeting have been addressed. The concerns were that a suburban parking plan was being used in an urban setting. To address the concerns, Burdett said the architectural firm modified previous plans by altering the landscape design while maintaining a “security barrier” around the facility to meet “anti-terrorism requirements.” Employee parking is slated on the south side of the complex with public parking on the north.

Burdett said an underground walkway would connect the new jail to the existing Public Safety Building. Eight outdoor seating areas are also to be constructed along Chestnut and West State streets.

In response to whether the size of the proposed jail could be scaled back, Johnson said, “The process is past that point” but later added “the door may be open” depending on research findings that may be brought forth during crime expert Dr. Michael Hazlett’s Feb. 16 presentation at Memorial Hall. Hazlett is a professor of Law Enforcement and Administration at Western Illinois University.

Hazlett toured the Winnebago County Jail on Nov, 1, 2002, and suggested the county renovate the existing jail, focus on jail alternatives, crime prevention, substance and mental health treatment, reforming suspect bonding procedures and increasing efficiency in the criminal justice system. Hazlett will be in Rockford Feb. 16 at 6 p.m. at Memorial Hall, 211 N. Main St.

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