Lake County to hire 24 jail officers, at a price

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Lake County is eliminating the jobs of 28 work-release staffers to comply with a federal order requiring it to hire more corrections officers and mental health professionals for jail inmates.

The decision to hire two dozen corrections officers follows a U.S. Department of Justice threat to hold the county in contempt for failing to comply with a mandate on hiring. Inmates sued in 2007 over conditions at the jail, and the department identified 99 deficiencies that the jail needed to address.

Sheriff John Buncich opposed abolishing the work-release program. He noted through an attorney that the inmates contribute $300,000 of their wages to government coffers and perform an estimated $400,000 in community service work each year.

Councilman Ted Bilski says the county had no other options without raising taxes.

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