Some prisons and jails throughout Indiana and around the country have experienced cases of COVID-19 because of the close quarters and ideal conditions for exposure. The Monroe County Jail has new equipment on the way which may help in deterring the spread of the virus.
Monroe County Sheriff Brad Swain said that the procedures put in place since the H1N1 outbreak more than a decade ago have been a factor in the jail’s ability to remain a relatively safe environment since the pandemic began.
Swain said, though, that in addition to sterilizing cells and common areas at the end of each shift, along with the location where new inmates are processed, even more needed to be done to ensure everyone’s safety.
Swain said, “Inmates as well as staff and anyone wishing to enter the jail for whatever reason must have their temperature taken.”
The Sheriff said if someone’s temperature is elevated, then an additional set of procedures must be followed in order to make sure that staff and inmates are all kept safe.
He said, “So no one has had to go to the hospital we know of no inmate that has shown any symptoms that would require a test. And so far, the practices seem to be working for us.”
Swain said that if an inmate or staff member is symptomatic, protocols are in place. He says separate quarantine cells are ready for the male and female inmates as well as access to testing if needed.
The Sheriff said, “They would be made available through our medical provider or through the route the standard public sites that are available.”
Swain said one of the factors that have made the jail safer during the pandemic is that nearly 100 low-level offenders have been released since the start of the outbreak in order to achieve social distancing.
He said the judge who released the inmates, all awaiting trial or a resolution to their cases, spoke individually with each inmate and expressed how disappointed she would be if they committed any offenses while being on release.
The Sheriff said inmates are monitored to see if they violate the terms of their release.
“If a judge can release somebody on their honor over COVID and compliance was high or it was terribly low, that’s information we can apply to the pilot program that Monroe County’s involved in.” Swain said.
He said there were some fears that the support systems, such as counseling and other resources that those inmates may require, would be shut down due to COVID.
The Sheriff said, “There was a concern that there would be a high failure rate or a potential for that, but I haven’t heard any of that being a reality.”
Swain said in addition to the procedures and protocols already in place, the jail was just awarded $58,000 Cares Act Grant to apply towards COVID-related service safety needs.
He said the money will go toward what they believe to be the best equipment to help decrease the spread of the virus.
The Sheriff said, “What we’ve done is in the HVAC system for the jail and the justice building itself has made arrangements for an ionization system to be put into the ventilation to kill COVID and other viruses.”
Swain said that they also ordered portable ultraviolet units that can sterilize a room in around an hour. They will be used in cell blocks, multipurpose rooms, and be made available for use throughout the Justice Building.
He expects the ionization system to be installed in the next couple weeks and the portable ultraviolet units will arrive next month.
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