Sheriff takes steps to limit inmate exposure to COVID-19

Cathy Decker, Aledo Times-Record

ALEDO — Mercer County jail has the capacity to hold 102 inmates. The current population is at 35. To avoid having too many individuals put together in a close setting Mercer County sheriff Dusty Terrill said his office accomplishes social distancing by only letting a few inmates at a time into common areas. For meals inmates eat in their cells.

In addition, the population and staff have ramped up cleaning. “Inmates are provided supplies for cleaning common areas. Every person has to wear masks at all times,” Terrill said. Inmates are also being educated on symptoms of COVID-19 and their temperatures are monitored.

There has been an uptick for some crimes in Mercer County, according to the sheriff. Specifically domestic violence calls and burglaries are on the increase. “Domestic violence calls are up 27 percent,” he said.

While there has been a mandate for social distancing — staying six feet apart, staying at home unless need is for food, fuel or other approved activities — the sheriff’s office has not received many calls reporting violations of social distancing.

“It hasn’t been reported very much,” he said, adding that the Health department plays a big role in enforcing social distancing.

Law enforcement response might include such things as having a talk with the individual or business in violation, or sending a letter.

“It could potentially go to court,” he added. The Illinois State police may also be notified.

Terrill, said his office has a planned protocol for enforcing the executive order to stay at home with a focus on maintaining the health of the public at large.

“The main focus of enforcement is to gain voluntary compliance. We all benefit as a whole when everyone cooperates with the rules set forth by the Illinois Department of Public health and the Governor's office.,” Terrill said.