Kendall County Sheriff Dwight Baird has made some changes to the sheriff's office's policy of transporting inmates outside of the jail, following a hostage incident in May at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital in Geneva.
Baird said his office partnered with officials from Rush Copley Medical Center in Aurora in drafting the changes, as the agency typically brings inmates that need medical attention to either Rush Copley's hospital in Aurora or its Healthcare Center facility in Yorkville.
"We reached out to Rush Copley and set up a meeting to discuss what their expectations were when we brought somebody in not only for a doctor's appointment in their facility but also if they were to have an overnight stay and be admitted into the hospital," he said.
John Diederich, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Rush Copley, said the company is always reviewing policies related to safety.
"Rush Copley is partnering with the Kendall County Sheriff's Office, along with other area law enforcement agencies, to help minimize safety issues," Diederich said. "While we cannot completely eliminate risks, the well-being of our patients, employees and visitors is our top priority, and we are continually reviewing policies and procedures and taking action to enhance safety and security measures at our Aurora and Yorkville campuses."
Baird said there were "not a lot of changes" made to the policy but that there were areas that the agency could improve.
"Any time an incident like this occurs, you want to look at your practices and ask, 'Are our policies and procedures up to date?'" Baird said.
Baird said that an overnight hospital stay for inmates occurs, on average, once every four to six months. He said the sheriff's office has also assisted municipalities in major cases with security at the hospital. Baird said the amount of security for each inmate in a hospital or medical setting is equal to when they are in the jail.
For example, an inmate classified as "high risk" is required to be escorted by two deputies in the jail. That rule would hold true in a hospital setting as well, he said, and may even include additional deputies, if necessary.
"If you end up being a person who is high risk, and based on your actions, your comments, that you're a two-deputy contact in the jail, we're going to exercise that out in the public as well," he said. "If you're in the hospital, and you're a two-deputy contact in the jail, you're going to be a two-deputy contact up there. We may have more deputies than that, depending on how we assess the risk."
Included in the changes to the policy is a requirement that inmates being transported to the hospital will "remain handcuffed and/or shackled at all times unless given specific orders by medical staff to remove restraints. Exceptions are pregnant females in active labor."
Deputies will not allow visitors to visit the inmate or have visitors themselves, according to the policy. No telephone calls will be received or made by the deputy or deputies with the exception of emergency calls or to the sheriff's office for an update. Deputies will not be allowed to go onto the internet or visit social media sites or gaming while providing security, the policy states. Deputies will rotate hospital security details every four hours while the inmate is in the emergency room and/or admitted, according to the policy.
"We want to make sure the deputy is attentive," Baird said. "Obviously we know that we want to give breaks and things like that. So instead of assigning somebody up there for an extended period of time – eight to 12 hours – we made the decision here that we're going to rotate people out every four hours."
Baird said it's "human nature that you can get drained or your mind can get sidetracked" during long shifts. Baird said the changes to the policy help his agency and Rush Copley to stay proactive.
"We're responsible for the security of the prisoner at all times, whether they're inside the jail or they're outside; so that rests with the sheriff," he said. "But we feel that it's a good practice to partner with and work with the hospital and their staff to make sure everybody has a clear understanding and we're working together."