As the coronavirus spreads across the nation and the state of Georgia, the well being of inmates and staff at jails and prisons presents a challenging and complex situation.
Cafeteria dining and community showers combined with large populations of inmates can present problems in a time when gatherings are supposed to be limited to 10 or less people in order to stop the spread of the virus.
The Lumpkin County Detention Center has a capacity to house 225 inmates at any given time.
Last week, Sheriff Stacy Jarrard took proactive measures to try to ensure the safety of employees and inmates alike from what could be a catastrophic situation if the coronavirus makes its way into the walls of the detainment facility.
For starters, detention center employees are being screened before being allowed to work shifts.
“We are screening employees by checking their temperature and their perceived health issues,” stated Jarrard in an email in response to The Nugget’s questions. “Each employee has been notified to contact their supervisor should they feel they may have symptoms, including those of the common cold.”
In the event that the detention center should see cases of coronavirus arise, Jarrard said the facility will be ready.
“We have quarantine protocols in place,” Jarrard stated. “We have a plan that will be put in motion to isolate anyone with suspicious symptoms. However, due to the sensitive nature of this information, we cannot disclose it to the public.”
KEEPING IT CLEAN
Keeping the detention level population level in check is imperative too.
During the past week, Jarrard said he worked to reduce the inmate population at the facility. The Detention Center went from housing 143 inmates at the start of last week to 103 inmates by the week’s end.
More could follow.
“I have reached out to the judicial system concerning the various individuals that may be able to bond out on own-recognizance (OR),” stated Jarrard when asked whether he was considering plans to release inmates who are currently detained due to not being able to post bail or who have lesser offenses. “The judge makes the OR and we are awaiting their answer. I have made the judicial system aware of the charges and the length of their booking time. I am awaiting their decision. We met at the courthouse to discuss with public defenders, probation officers, attorneys and judges. Everyone was receptive to the idea.”
Jarrard also stated that the detainment facility is ramping efforts to maintain good hygiene among inmates and staff.
“We offer all the materials needed to keep hygiene as clean as possible,” Jarrard stated. “If someone is indigent, it is still provided for them. We offer the cleaning supplies for both inmates and the facility to promote good hygiene. Each inmate has hand washing stations in which we provide soap and they have free use of these facilities. The cells and Detention Center are cleaned daily, and we are currently in the process of increasing the frequency of our cleaning schedule.”
Hand sanitizer, however, is not allowed within the facility.
“Due to some of the ingredients that make hand sanitizer, it cannot be in the jail,” Jarrard stated. “For instance, alcohol.”
Jarrard stated that the detention center is stocking up on necessary supplies in the event that the virus makes its way into the facility.
“We have sufficient supplies currently in stock to take care of all provisions and have been assured by our purveyors that we will be receiving more supplies as needed,” Jarrard stated.
Jarrard also stated that inmates’ temperatures are being checked by medical staff on a daily basis.
In addition, Jarrard stated that the facility currently has 160 masks and procedural masks on hand. However, there are currently no respirators or ventilators at the jail.
The facility has contracted medical from CorrectHealth, a for-profit medical provider which is aimed towards supplying health care to jails and prisons.
“We have contracted staff via CorrectHealth,” Jarrard stated. “The medical unit is based on CorrectHealth recommendations and we have medical staff available everyday on site.”
With in-person visitation halted due to the risk of the coronavirus affecting the center, Jarrard has also struck a deal with its vendor Legacy to provide free video visitation and free emails.
“I didn’t want this to be a burden to those incarcerated,” stated Jarrard. “So I reached out to the company and asked them to supply these services free of charge.”