New Jail Controversey

One group of Rockford residents says alleged criminals in Winnebago County aren't receiving due process.

The group says a new criminal justice center is being built under false pretenses, but the Winnebago County state attorney's office and the public defenders office say these claims have no merit.

Nearly two years ago, Winnebago County residents voted to pass the public safety referendum, adding a one-cent sales tax to help pay for a new criminal justice center.

Rev. Perry Bennett and Ambassador Jesus Barbary of the Rockford Ministers Fellowship say taxpayers were misled. They agree that the jail is overcrowded, but they say it's due to "Rule 20”, one of the rules of the 17th Judicial Circuit.

The men claim that the judicial system is stockpiling the jail with inmates, purposely creating an overcrowded system that deceived taxpayers into approving the referendum.

Winnebago County Public Defender Karen Sorenson and Deputy State Attorney Charles Prorok say these accusations are completely false. Under Illinois law, courts can either hold a preliminary hearing or issue a bill of indictment. In Winnebago County, a grand jury indicts anyone charged with a felony and both say that happens within the allotted 30 days.

Prorok says the accusation of purposely overcrowding the jail is preposterous and says that justice isn't being denied and no alleged suspects are being held in jail without receiving due process.