Tablets return to McLean County Jail after rift between sheriff, county board

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MCLEAN COUNTY, Ill. (WMBD) — Inmates once again have access to phone calls, texts and entertainment after going a month without access to tablets due to contract negotiations.

Sheriff Jon Sandage said he approved the contract with IC Solutions after the board’s vote delayed it in October.

Communicating with loved ones and educational opportunities were the main reasons Sheriff Sandage said he wanted tablets back in inmates’ hands.

“There’s a lot of benefits- not just for inmates but for our staff. When you get around the holidays, tensions rise in jails, so it was also important to do something to try and lower tensions,” Sandage said.

Sandage said he approved the contract himself before Thanksgiving, after consulting with the Illinois Sheriffs Association and McLean County states’ attorney.

“I have internal control of the department, so I don’t necessarily need board approval,” Sandage said.

For months, board democrats argued against the contract, saying inmates should not have to pay for each email or minute of streaming.

“To sort of nickel and dime them and profiting off of it, it just doesn’t sit well with me,” said board Democrat Sharon Chung.

The county takes in 25% of those costs in addition to other costs inmates incur, according to Chung.

“Since the jail was already making so much off of phone call and video conferencing fees, we just thought if there was a way to right a wrong, [it was] by nixing this commission,” Chung said.

Sandage said using the tablets is optional.

“The hardware has a cost, the licensing has a cost. It’s a luxury, it’s just like you, or I’s cell phone,” Sandage said.

Both sides accuse the other of making the issue political.

Chung says she’s unsure of the contract’s specifics but assumes it’s similar to the one tabled by the board in October.

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