Joseph Yurkovich | Chief of Operations
Joseph Yurkovich was named chief of Operations for the Illinois Department of Corrections on June 10, 2013. Prior to this position Yurkovich served as the deputy director of the Central District for IDOC.
A 23-year veteran of the Illinois Department of Corrections, Yurkovich began his career as a correctional officer at Illinois River Correctional Center (IRCC) in June 1989. During his first 10 years of service, he worked on the front line of the facility in a variety of positions on all three security shifts at one time or another.
In 1999, he was appointed as the facility’s first intelligence unit officer. In 2000, he became IRCC's institutional intelligence unit coordinator and later that year was promoted to correctional sergeant. In 2001, he was appointed as District 2 intelligence unit coordinator, where he supervised intelligence units at a variety of correctional centers in northern Illinois. During the months of April and May 2008, he was temporarily assigned as the chief investigator at Stateville Correctional Center until June 2008 when he returned to his district coordinator duties.
In 2010, he was named warden of Jacksonville Correctional Center, where he oversaw the operation of the facility along with Greene County and Pittsfield Work Camps. He was then appointed acting warden of Hill Correctional Center in 2011 and was later named warden in 2012. He served as warden at Hill Correctional Center until his most recent appointment as deputy director of the Central District.
Scope of Responsibilities
The chief of operations is responsible for the overall operations of adult institutions, Special Operations Response Team (SORT) and the operations center. The chief of operations is also responsible for the coordinating of all death row transports and oversees escape risk designations for all incarcerated felons.
Safety is at the forefront of the agency's operations. The department's emphasis is placed on front line staff to protect and control inmates. A number of initiatives designed to ensure the safety of employees and inmates have yielded significant results. Among those are control and order. To ensure control and order, security level designations, controlled inmate line movement, inmate property boxes and other enhanced securities initiatives, such as the increased monitoring of security threat groups (STGs), have created a more secure prison system. Improved technology also defines the way IDOC safely operates its facilities. Security functions include regular and random shakedowns and searches of cells, inmates, employees, vehicles, visitors and common areas.
The Operations Center operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week as a statewide command center for any critical situation. The center is quipped with state-of-the-art technology. The command center also supports parole agents and other law enforcement agencies by providing a wide variety of inmate data, such as addresses, offender tracking system (OTS), juvenile tracking system (JTS), LEADS, inquires and criminal history. The center also provides support through the automated management system, which involves the issuing and cancellation of warrants. The Operations Center has increased the safety and security of parole agents, and offenders, as well as that of the general public through the tracking of offender transports and extraditions.
Special Operations Team
The Special Operations Team (SORT) is a statewide unit that responds to the operational needs of the department during routine or critical incidents. SORT ensures the safety and security of inmates, staff and the public by enforcing the IDOC policy of zero tolerance for drugs, contraband and violence within its facilities. In order to maintain the safety and security of all areas within IDOC, all or part of the following specialized teams are used, all of which comprise the SORT.
NEMAT or the department's Statewide Hostage Negotiation Team is under the umbrella of SORT so that all emergency response teams could work and train together and have consistency and structured leadership. Negotiators from all areas including Programs, Security, Juvenile, Adult, Parole, and Women and Family Services were added to the team to promote continuity.
A facility Tactical Unit is maintained at all IDOC adult institutions. The Tactical Units are not considered a full-time responsibility. Tactical team members are responsible for fulfilling obligations of their full-time positions when not serving in an emergency situation. Tactical Units train monthly on marching and formations, use of force, chemical agents, dealing with riots and disturbances, forced cell moves and other specialized training.
The Tactical Response Team/Special Weapons Team is readily available for immediate activation and substantial mobilization to respond to the operational needs of the department during routine or critical incidents. During these reportable and unusual situations, the Statewide Tactical Response Team/Special Weapons Team is used to provide high-level transport, hostage rescue, fugitive apprehension and riot control, thereby helping to ensure the safety and security of the public during escapes, hostage situations, riot conditions and high-level transfers.
The Sniper/Observer Unit is deployed to maintain the security and safety within the facilities as necessary. The Sniper/Observer Unit responsibilities include observation skills, intelligence gathering, intricate and meticulous attention to detail and expert marksmanship skills as required in a hostage rescue situation.