"Inmates, keep your hands on the table! Don't talk to anyone and stay away from the dogs."
Those orders were given to groups of inmates in the Lake County Jail this morning as officers from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Correctional Response Team (CRT) and officers with K9s from 14 agencies throughout Lake County searched the jail for contraband.
Inmates were brought out into common areas so that officers with dogs could search their rooms. Then each inmate received a pat down by hand before returning to his or her cell.
The sweep also included handlers and K9s from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, and the communities of Bannockburn, Elgin, Forest Park, Gurnee, Waukegan and Wheeling.
The surprise sweep of the Lake County Jail involved 40 officers and began around 9 a.m. and lasted for about two hours. Media personnel accompanied the CRT in the jail as they systematically removed inmates from their cells while the cell searches were conducted.
Lieutenant Nick Kalfas, Unit Commander of CRT, said 20 housing units in the main jail were searched as well as the Community Based Corrections Center. Kalfas said there were two hits during the search, where the K9 thought there was something, but both turned out to be unfounded.
“It is a testament to our officers that no contraband was located that they are doing an exceptional job keeping our jail free of illegal drugs and weapons,” said Sheriff Mark Curran.
The Sheriff’s Office will continually conduct random checks of the jail facilities to ensure that the jail remains drug free, Kalfas said.
"The inmates know that if they bring in contraband, like marijuana or cocaine, it is a felony," Kalfas said. "So whatever they were originally charged with goes way up. This search process reinforces the fact that we run a clean jail. The officers who work here do a good job every day."
As of May 24, there were 638 inmates in the jail. It has a capacity of 740.
If drugs or weapons had been found, Curran said that a criminal investigation would be launched and the State's Attorney would bring any related charges.
"Since I came here in 2008, we've done four or five of these sweeps, and we've yet to find anything," Kalfas said. "There have been zero drugs in here. The inmates know that we are serious about them not bringing anything in here. Does doing these searches help? Absolutely."
Indeed, the Lake County Jail was very clean and quiet. And that, Kalfas said, is by design.
"We reinforce the smaller rules, like not swearing and keeping the noise level down," he said, "so we don't have to get into the bigger issues."