ROCKFORD, Ill. — The number of lawsuits filed against county officials in northern Illinois in response to intentional prolonged daily jail lockdowns is growing by the day.

Winnebago County State’s Attorney’s chief of staff and Civil Bureau, Dave Kurlinkus, said Monday that four lawsuits had been served. Winnebago County Circuit Clerk Tom Klein said Tuesday that the number had grown to 15 lawsuits and that he is expecting to see more.

“They’re coming in every day,” Klein said. “I’m sure there are more in the mail today.”

The lawsuits allege “excessive and unwarranted lockdowns,” and several are seeking $15,000 in damages, the Rockford Register Star reported.

Winnebago County Chief Deputy Mark Karner said the office hasn’t been served with all the lawsuits so it’s difficult to comment. But he said the number of lockdowns is linked with staff shortages.

“The sheriff’s office has informed our county board that we are short on staff and we need funding to increase our staff,” Karner said. “And we continue to work with them to get our staffing up to par.”

Sheriff Gary Caruana doesn’t deny that inmates spend long hours on lockdown. At a meeting with the newspaper this month, the sheriff said inmates were being held on lockdown for 10 to 12 hours a day after they laid off 10 correctional officers due to budget constraints.

In September, the County Board cut the budgets of multiple county departments before passing a balanced fiscal year 2018 budget. The sheriff’s budget was cut by $4.3 million.


Information from: Rockford Register Star, http://www.rrstar.com

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