County jails across the state have all taken steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into their facilities, and have made preparations to quarantine inmates who test positive.
Daviess County Jailer Art Maglinger and Henderson County Jailer Amy Brady said their jails are prohibiting all in-person visits, have stopped taking inmates from other facilities and are checking every new inmate who enters the facility.
“We do medical screenings for every inmate” and if they show any signs; our protocol is they get isolated and put in quarantine,” Maglinger said Monday.
Inmates are questioned more about their health when they are booked into the jail.
Jail staff are also being monitored for their health when the report to work, Maglinger said. All jail visits have been canceled, and visitation is now being on a video visitation service that began after in-person visitations stopped on Saturday, Maglinger said.
The Daviess jail houses county, state and federal inmates.
“The state inmates have really slowed down” on coming to the jail, Maglinger said. “The state is limiting the movement of state inmates.”
Similar provisions are being taken all over the state, said Renee McDaniel, executive director of the Kentucky Jailer’s Association.
“We have released several memos over the last two weeks,” McDaniel said. “We started more general and have gotten more specific.
“Every jail now has a list of questions they ask at intake,” McDaniel said. Jails are also taking the temperature of all new inmates, and are currently telling officers to take anyone with a temperature of 104 to the emergency room.
That option might become harder to use over time if emergency rooms become regularly overwhelmed with patients, McDaniel said.
With new inmates that don’t show signs of illness “it has been suggested to us by the department of health … as a safety precaution, we quarantine them for 14 days,” McDaniel said.
Amy Brady, Henderson County Jailer, said the jail is also not accepting any visitors, has closed its lobby and is medically screening inmates and staff.
The jail is also cleaning surfaces “every three hours,” every day, Brady said.
“Right now, with flu season, it’s a lot of the same protocol, trying to keep the facility sanitary,” Brady said.
The jail has the ability to isolate sick inmates if necessary in a portion of the jail where the air won’t circulate to other parts of the facility, Brady said.
Maglinger said he’s not accepting any inmates who want to transfer to Daviess County to participate in the substance abuse treatment program.
The state pays for the medical care of state inmates in county jails. Anyone who is awaiting trial in jail who become sick would have their care paid for by the county.
McDaniel said state inmates who become sick can be transferred to the state prison medical facility at Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange.
More offenders are being cited to court rather than arrested, and people facing non-violent, non-sexual offenses are being released on probation by courts to reduce jail populations, McDaniel said.
In-person attorney-client meetings have stopped, and family visitation has been canceled, across the state, McDaniel said.
“I know that’s hard for the inmates and their families, but it’s a precaution to keep people safe,” McDaniel said.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Corrections said she was awaiting approval to release a statement Monday on how prisons are preparing to deal with COVID-19 cases.
Jail work crews have stopped working outside the Daviess jail.
“It’s pretty significant for the landfill, transfer station and the animal shelter,” Maglinger said.
Maglinger said he has designated isolation cells, as well as a cell empty for renovation that could be used to house sick inmates. Also, the jail has an empty building that could house deputy jailers who are concerned about being exposed to COVID-19.
“Building Four, I’m using that as a contingency for the staff, if they don’t feel comfortable going home,” Maglinger said. “I don’t know how long this is going to last, so you have to have backup plans.”
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse