Precautions are being taken at Finney County Jail to not spread COVID-19 in the jail.
Finney County sheriff Kevin Bascue said the jail is doing what it can to keep COVID-19 from the jail.
This includes providing staff and inmates with sanitary supplies, such as hand soap and gloves, and participating in social distancing, Bascue said.
“We’re kind of just doing what everyone else is doing,” he said. “The jail staff has always used those types of protective equipment ... and now we’re just taking it a little bit further.”
Bascue said the jail does have a plan in place in the event an inmate is diagnosed with COVID-19.
“We’ll take them out of regular population and house them in an area together so as not to spread (the virus) and the risk of infection to any other prisoners,” he said.
Bascue said they have also notified local law enforcement that if they arrest someone, unless it’s a serious crime — if it’s just something that can be dealt with by a citation, or if the person exhibits signs of illness — they should not be brought to the jail.
“We’re doing things a little bit different than we normally would, asking street officers to exercise some judgment in the people they come in contact with to limit and keep the spread from our jail,” he said.
There is a nurse on staff at the jail, Bascue said, but if someone’s illness becomes too severe for them to treat, they will be taken to the hospital for secondary treatment.
Mark Hartman, chief public defender at the Western Regional Public Defender’s Office, said jails, like nursing homes or cruise ships, can be incubators for disease.
“When you’re a person in jail, you don’t just make your own meal or live freely, you have people interacting with you, including jail deputies who then go home ... and if they caught it, they could take it home with them,” he said. “That’s how the jail could become a large incubator for the community.”
He hopes to get low-risk inmates released to slow possible spread in the jail.
By low-risk, Hartman means someone who is in jail because of a technical violation of probation, for driving while their license is suspended or those who have been found guilty and are going to be paroled.
Those who pose a significant safety risk, face severe allegations or have a track record of causing harm in the community should not be released, Hartman said.
Three of Hartman’s clients have been released from jail after he spoke with Finney County attorney Susan Richmeier.
“There are people in the jail literally serving sentence for driving while suspended or because they can’t pay fines or fees,” he said. “These are people who pose no danger to the community. Just because they drove on a suspended license does not mean they should be in jail in the middle of a global pandemic.”