Kane County sheriff books himself into jail, to see what complaints are about
Ron Hain of Sugar Grove exchanged his clothes for a Kane County jail uniform Wednesday evening.
He got a blanket and a mattress, with a built-in pillow, and shuffled off to one of the pods.
But unlike other detainees, Hain will get to go home at 7 a.m. Thursday, sans a criminal record and without posting bail -- because he's the guy in charge.
Sheriff Hain announced Wednesday he would spend the night in jail -- and intends to do so several times in the coming months -- to get a better understanding of life in the Kane County Adult Correctional Center.
It will help him determine the validity of some of the complaints detainees have, he said. And he hopes it will show them he cares -- "so they understand I'm invested in their lives," he said.
In particular, Hain said, he is interested in the quality of the food and whether the cells are too cold. He asked to be placed in one of the cells prisoners complain about the most.
"As sheriff and keeper of the house, it is important to experience it myself," he said.
It's important he understand the jail situation, Hain said, because it's the office's largest department, and because he never worked in the corrections division. He campaigned on promises of instituting programs and education to improve detainees' chances of living a crime-free life after they are released.
A survey of the corrections staff, taken in mid-December, suggested three areas for improvement: food, clothing and climate.
When detainees enter the jail, they are outfitted with an orange T-shirt, orange pants, sandals, socks and underwear that includes a short-sleeved T-shirt. They can request a long-sleeved thermal undershirt, but they are not always available, Hain said.
Hains got his pile of clothes Wednesday evening and quickly got himself outfitted completely in orange. He also was given a baggie contains a comb, a toothbrush, and deodorant.
The top complaint about the food comes from Muslim detainees who have requested kosher meals, Hain said. The detainees complain about the taste of the food, that there aren't enough calories, and that it does not conform to religious standards.
Devout Muslims who keep halal don't eat pork and only eat meat from animals that have been blessed and slaughtered by the cutting of their throats. It is similar to the rules for observant Jews who keep kosher.
Many foods that are kosher are also halal, in many Muslims' eyes, according to a 2012 research paper presented to the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America. So when halal foods aren't available, many Muslims will eat foods marked as kosher.
As to the temperature, in 2017 detainee Joshua Scott sued Hain's predecessor over rules that prohibited detainees from covering themselves with their blankets from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. unless they received permission from staff.
Scott contended jail staff members knew certain cells were too cold and would issue two blankets for detainees housed in them. He also alleged, and several defendants admitted, that corrections officers wore jackets and used space heaters themselves during those hours when the blankets were banned. The lawsuit is pending in federal court.
Former Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran spent a week in his jail in August 2008 to call attention to conditions in prisons and jails.