Sangamon County Judge Grants Restraining Order in DHS Jail Transfer Case

By Benjamin Cox on August 5, 2022 at 8:50am

A Sangamon County judge ruled that the Illinois Department of Human Services must notify county jails of the placement of inmates not fit for trial in state facilities within 20 days, declaring two pandemic-era executive orders regarding inmate transfers unlawful.

The State Journal Register reports that Judge Karen Tharp ruled today that DHS was in violation of state law mandating that it notify counties of the placement of inmates declared unfit for trial within 20 days. The agency had used two pandemic-era executive orders signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker to suspend and delay the admission of inmates into state mental health facilities.

Sangamon County Sheriff Jack Campbell filed the lawsuit in June challenging the executive orders. The lawsuit was eventually amended to add sheriffs of 5 other downstate counties.

Tharp agreed with Campbell and the sheriffs, saying that the state did not have discretion to go beyond the limits of the 20-day policy in terms of determining where the inmates should go. She said that if the state had unlimited power over where an inmate is placed, DHS could refuse to allow anyone unfit into their facilities. Tharp also said that the executive orders did not put any criteria in place that would combat the spread of COVID-19 and that there was no evidence to suggest that they would pose a risk of spreading the virus in DHS facilities.

Tharp then said the governor did not have unlimited authority to pursue executive action on the case, saying that he had exceeded his authority under the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act to control the movements of people or inmates.

DHS plans to appeal the decision to the state Appellate Court. Both sides are set to meet again on August 25th for a status hearing.