Concentrated inmate populations are at a high risk of rapid spread of COVID-19 if the virus gets through facility walls.

The goal is for that to not happen.

Institutions across the country are further isolating some inmates through the cancelation of visits and programming, and releasing others in an effort to combat COVID-19, including at Barron County Jail which houses nearly 120 inmates and has 31 County employees, and additional contracted medical and food staff.

Barron County released 18 Huber inmates this week. These inmates have work-release privileges and leave jail to go to their jobs during the day (or night). At the jail they sleep in a dorm setting with little to no social distancing.

These 18 people’s movements are being monitored in real-time using electronic ankle devices,  Jail Captain Tim Evenson said.

Less incoming

The number of people being booked into jail is being reduced.

The probation office was asked to stop referring violators to jail except for felonies and serious matters, Evenson said.

Dispatch records show that multiple people have been diverted from jail after violating probation. These violations remain on record for future consideration. 

Arrestees now wait in the jail’s sally port and are run through a COVID-19 questionnaire and have their temperature taken before they are booked in.

If a person has an increased risk for COVID-19, they would be transferred to an off-site medical facility for further testing. 

For those that are accepted into the jail, their bail bond hearing may be affected by the virus. Bond arguments and court room decisions have taken COVID-19 into account. 

Non-inmate traffic

On-site visitations and 22 programs were suspended on March 12 in an effort to reduce foot traffic. The Wisconsin Department of Corrections suspended all family and volunteer visits to its facilities on March 13.

Visits can still be conducted off-site using a video-uplink provided through Securus Technologies. The cost is $5.95 for 30 minutes.

Professional visits, like with a lawyer, are still allowed but are restricted to non-contact visits. 

Video uplink will also be used for all court appearances, unless an in-person appearance is required by the Constitution or state statute. The jail already uses video-uplink for initial bond hearings. 

Sanitation

Most prisons and jails, including Barron County’s, do not allow inmates access to hand sanitizer, which contains alcohol. 

Evenson wrote that inmates always have access to soap and water for proper handwashing, as well as to sanitation supplies.

Inmates use the supplies to clean their cells and the day rooms, and wash clothing and bedding. 

“Jail staff monitors and inspects all areas to ensure they are clean. This process has always been in place to prevent the spread of any diseases,” Evenson wrote in an email. 

If COVID-19 is detected in the jail, a wing of the facility could be used as a quarantine zone, Evenson wrote.

The jail’s medical services include one full-time nurse and three part-time nurses. 

Nursing coverage is on site everyday for approximately 9 hours, and the jail doctor is available once a week for approximately 4 hours.

(Copyright © 2020 APG Media)

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