PARIS, IL. (ECWd) –
Letter to the Editor (if anyone else would like to write to us, we will be happy to print it provided you supply your name and contact information with the letter.):
Part 5 or Welcome to the Edgar County Jail..Not Even a Nice Place to Visit
Much has been made of the building of a new jail. Its a scary thought for the taxpayers who are already funding the building of a new high school (and if you think that little project is going to come in on budget, come go for a walk in the real world with me. I’ll show you around.) Please allow me to clear up some misconceptions right from the get go. Of course Sheriff Motley would like to have a new jail. In the condition the old one is in, we should all want a safer, more modern facility. BUT, Sheriff Motley knows that there is no money to build a new jail at this time. He knows this! On the other hand there are standards that must be met. He knows this too. Coming from the prison system, he knows this fact better than most.
I went to an event in Chrisman once where Sheriff Motley showed folks slides of the inside of the jail. A gentleman there, who had been a missionary, said that the jail looked like it belongs in a third world country. He was, absolutely, correct. The conditions inside that jail are deplorable. Sheriff Motley asked for volunteers and donations to make repairs and he got them. He has done his best, with extremely limited resources, to improve conditions at the jail. But there is still so much more to be done.
The jail is more than 100 years old. Imagine, those of you who live in 100 year old homes, what kind of shape even the most beautiful home would be in if you did little to no maintenance for eight years. The older the building the more maintenance it requires. Kind of like our own bodies (and when I say our, I mean me). Now imagine you invited people to live with you, who were angry about being there, and displayed that anger by, purposely, destroying your property. That is the situation at the Edgar County jail. It has been suggested that the people who destroy property at the jail, be charged and forced to pay for the repairs. I think its a fabulous idea. Not very original though, I suggested it years ago.
Unfortunately, you also have the problem of getting the current States Attorney to follow through and prosecute. Good luck with that. However, his office does not have a problem with declining a request to postpone serving a week end sentence the day after your mother dies. Yes, indeed that happened Friday. The response that the jailer received after he made the request was “They are not going to do anything with her (the mother’s body) until Monday anyway”. Fortunately, the Sheriff, in his compassion, stepped in.
Well, I am off topic so lets continue with the needed repairs at the jail. What most folks are unaware of, is that the Sheriff cannot just go to Lowe’s and purchase new sinks and toilets. There is a standard for that too. They must be fully contained and they are very expensive (several thousand dollars each). The inmates frequently pulled the electrical wiring from the walls to light homemade cigarettes (coffee grounds, instant tea, etc. No tobacco is allowed). They write on the walls, destroy the sleeping mats, flood the cell blocks, the list goes on and on. There is one correctional officer on duty. He is not magic and cannot be everywhere at once. There is no money to put a second correctional officer on duty even though the jail standards state that there must be two. How in the name of all that is Holy, the jail passed inspections during the Crippes administration is a mystery nearly as deep as the Trinity. Or maybe not.
So let me tell you what has changed. As I said, the Sheriff has done his best with what he has. Despite the outright lie that arrests are not being made, the jail is beyond capacity most of the time. Doors are locked now that I have not seen locked since I came to work there. The back gate is kept locked at all times. Inmates are no longer allowed to come and go as they please. During the Crippes years, inmates, many with a long history of violence, were made trustees and allowed to come and go from the jail as they pleased. Remember seeing them around town, at the gas stations buying cigarettes, roofing the houses of privates citizens (the Watchdogs have video), spending the day at home, even going to the liquor store. No one searched them when they came back. Sometimes, they didn’t come back. I lost count of the number of escapes during those years. Ever wonder why Steve Siverly was able to escape the jail and walk across Main St on a Saturday evening without being reported? Because he had street clothes on under his jail jumpsuit. Anyone who may have passed him had no clue that he was supposed to be in custody. That is also how he was able to climb over the razor wire. He had layers of clothing on. Street clothes are no longer allowed in the cell blocks. Every inmate is in a jail jumpsuit all the time.
You know my worst fear during those years was not for my safety, but for the safety of the young woman who might be stopped at the wrong stop light at the wrong time. In a way, I am glad that the public didn’t know how bad it really was. And I thank God that no one was injured. And I thank God that thanks to Sheriff Motley, that nightmare has come to an end.
So why care about the conditions at the jail at all? Well for one thing, money. If the jail is shut down, the inmates will have to go to other jails to be housed. I believe the number is $43. per inmate per day. I could be wrong about that number. Someone please correct me if I am. The jail population is, on average, 35. A full time jailer will still need to be on duty to process new inmates. Someone will have to be paid to transport inmates to other facilities, then drive them back and forth to Edgar County for court dates.
The second thing is, like it or not, we are our brothers keepers. I struggle with this too especially when it comes to child molesters and women beaters. But the vast majority of the people incarcerated at the jail are people who have made bad choices when it comes to drugs. Sometimes, they are just people who are arrested on a civil claims warrant because they didn’t have the money to pay their bills. Before you pass judgement on them ask yourself if you have ever had to choose between groceries and the electric bill. I have. I get it. If you have not, get down on your knees right now and thank God for blessing you. Do not judge your poorer brothers and sisters and if you do, remember that you have already received your reward. Do people make bad choices? Yes I do. Could they make better choices? I know a young woman, and I am so very proud of her, that had everything stacked against her. She and her husband have worked hard, are raising five beautiful children, own their own home, and she is going to nursing school all through their own hard work and perseverance. If she can do it, anyone can. Maybe, just maybe, a safer, cleaner jail will lead to more counseling, more GEDs, and better choices for our brothers and sisters.
Sheriff Motley has made improvements in the condition of the jail. I believe that his efforts are the only reason that it is still open. There is much more to be done. It just depends on where our priorities lie.
Part 6 or What I know about Sheriff Motley
I know that Sheriff Motley is a man of integrity. He says what he means and means what he says. I know that he is a Christian man. He doesn’t just claim the title, but also lives the life. I know that in the nearly four years that I have worked for him, I have never heard the man make a lewd comment, tell a crude joke, or utter a cuss word. I know that he is married to one of the kindest, most genuine ladies I have ever met. Nancy Motley is sincerely nice to everyone she meets. And its not that “fake nice” that so many people think that they have perfected. She is really, truly a nice person. People who know her better than I have told me that they have never heard her utter an unkind word about anyone. I know that the Sheriff is faithful to his God and to his wife. Why is this important? For me, if you cannot be faithful to that vow, why should I believe that you can be faithful to your oath of office?
I know that since Sheriff Motley has taken office, there has not been a hint of impropriety or corruption associated with his administration. He has earned not only my respect, but the respect of other Sheriffs in the area.
I know that the jail is a safer place to work and therefore a safer place for the people who are housed there and for the community at large. I know the inmates are no longer allowed to come and go as they please. I remember a deputy from another office who came to pick up an inmate when Crippes was Sheriff. He watched inmates come and go and finally said to me, “Its just like Mayberry here.” Yes, except Otis, alcoholic that he was, was never arrested for domestic battery. There is still much to be done at the jail, but I tell you it is one hundred percent better than it was.
I know that Sheriff Motley would like to have more staff. But there is no money. The county board and the 911 board have decided, apparently, that your safety is not a priority. The staffing issue, at this time, is not safe for the community and its sure not safe for the deputy on duty. Now, I am sure they will fall all over themselves to assure you that this is not true. I say actions speak louder than words.
I can tell you that when Tim Crippes took office, NO ONE treated him the way that Sheriff Motley has been treated. A lot of the department supported Jeff Hodge in that election. And we were disappointed that he did not win. I maintain that Jeff Hodge would have made a damn fine Sheriff. But everyone gave Crippes a chance. There was no childish mass exodus or moving of offices. And we continued to give him a chance until we just couldn’t make excuses for him anymore. Why, you may ask, does she continue to hammer at Tim Crippes when he is not in the race. Because people who are were a major part of that administration. I do not want to go back to the days when the Edgar County Sheriffs Office was the butt of jokes in two states.
I know that Sheriff Motley will be a Constitutional Sheriff. The oath to protect and defend the Constitution are not just words to him.
I know that the job is not just a pay check for him. He doesn’t need it. He does not take the retirement or the health insurance benefits offered by the county.
I know that Sheriff Motley has been accused of being aloof and unfriendly. This is a misconception. The truth is, he is, I think, a little slow to warm up to people. I understand that. I am the same way. But isn’t that better than the politician who is your best friend after the first five seconds he meets you and then makes fun of you as you walk away. Yep, I saw that during the Crippes administration too. I have never seen Sheriff Motley do it. One thing is for certain, he is no politician. He is a Sheriff.
I have had some people tell me it is dangerous to write the things that I have been writing. Some folks have warned me that I am painting a big target on my back if Sheriff Motley loses the election. I know. But this is what the people would attack me don’t know. There is nothing you can take from me. I have no need of any material possessions. The only thing of value that I have is my immortal soul. And it rests safely in the arms of my Lord. I know how malicious and malevolent the GEMS can be. I pray for them daily. All I ask of anyone reading this, if I have offended or angered you, do not blame Sheriff Motley. He had no prior knowledge of these posts. I told you that I go rogue sometimes. Trying to control me is a lot like herding cats.