Sheriff's candidate Jones says he has the experience

Rantoul resident Allen Jones Jr. is seeking the GOP nomination for Champaign County sheriff in the March 20 primary, to succeed Sheriff Dan Walsh, who is retiring.

There are no Democrats running in the primary, although the party has the option of slating someone to appear on the November ballot.

Jones is being challenged by Thomasboro resident Greg Worrell.

Jones said he favors increased patrols in the rural areas of what is one of the state’s largest counties geographically. He also backs consolidation of the jail-sheriff’s facilities into one unit and said he has been active in recent years working with those in the community who provide assistance to people with mental health and substance abuse issues.

Jones said he favors increasing patrol staff and wants to continue to work with the cities and the gun violence task force to improve sheriff’s deputy visibility in rural areas.

“We hear a lot of people say, ‘We never see a deputy,’” Jones said during an interview with the Rantoul Press last week. “I understand that sentiment.”

Jones said the sheriff’s office staff can be stretched pretty thin. He said there are 30-32 sheriff’s deputies to patrol 1,000 square miles 24/7. Jones said if elected he might look at the patrol zone structure to increase visibility.

Jones said it is important to work with cities in the county on the violence task force to provide alternatives for young men who are committing violent crimes in the county — “trying to identify these people who are more prone to criminal offenses, violence with guns. They’re not strangers to the law enforcement community. Many are parolees with gun violence convictions.”

Jones said he has been active “in the last five or six years” with those who work with individuals who suffer mental health and substance abuse problems. Putting these offenders in jail isn’t the optimum solution. Nor is taking them to the hospital. Individuals suffering from these problems need specialized treatment, Jones said.

“A community the size of Champaign-Urbana should have these services, but they don’t,” Jones said. “There is no resource center for families to take loved ones suffering from mental illness.”

Jones said he  has worked on several grant applications to find ways to partner and reduce the number of such people going to jail.

Jones advocates a crisis intervention officer system similar to the one employed by the Rantoul Police Department.

“Rantoul has a fantastic program with an intern who is housed in their building,” Jones said. “The police are not the catch-all, and having partnerships with providers who work with these types of issues” is preferable.

Jones said Illinois has one of the highest opioid overdose rates in the country.

“In our communities it is impacting our families,” Jones said. “It starts out many ways with innocuous medication, and the dependency kicks in,” often resulting in addiction.

Jones said Champaign County law enforcement departments have a good working relationship and often assist in other jurisdictions when needed.

Jones said he has served as the sheriff’s office liaison with the county board.  

The county operates two jail facilities, with 113 cells in the inadequate downtown jail. Jones said he favors closure of that dilapidated facility and enlarging the satellite jail building in southeast Urbana. Jones said the downtown complex “needs a lot of repairs that have been delayed. It needs to be brought up to (Americans with Disabilities Act) code, money which the county doesn’t have. They’re also working through a settlement with the Department of Justice because they were sued over ADA compliance.”

Jones said the county has a decision to make, with one possible scenario relocating to the satellite jail facility — expanding it to fill the requirements to house different kinds of inmates in separate locations. The jail there could be expanded to 60-80 beds, “which would give us the housing and separation needs,” he said.

Jones, who is 50, began working in the county jail part time during the summer of 1988. He graduated from Illinois State University with a degree in criminal justice.

Sheriff Dave Madigan hired him to work at the county jail full time in 1989.

Jones said he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father (Allen Sr.) in law enforcement.

He became a patrol deputy in January 1991. He was also part of the SWAT team and field-trained recruits. In 1999, he began to specialize in investigating internet crimes and conducted computer forensics. For nearly two years, Jones worked with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office in forensics work out of Springfield, investigating child exploitation, child porn and financial scams.

When Walsh was elected sheriff in 2002, he brought Jones “back in house,” and he spent the better part of two years in investigations. He was promoted to sergeant in the patrol division and later to lieutenant. In 2011 he was promoted to captain and assigned as jail administrator.

In October 2013, Jones was promoted to chief deputy. The Gifford tornado one month later was one of his first major details — serving as incident commander for most of the response to that event.


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