Steps jails are taking to combat COVID-19


CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – So far, there is no reported positive case of COVID-19 in any jail across the Mountain State; but correctional facilities are still taking precautions.

With an executive ‘Stay At Home’ order in place, and the state encouraging ‘social distancing’, how are correctional facilities in the state dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak?

“That is a concern for the State of West Virginia,” says Secretary Bill Crouch with the Department of Health and Human Resources.

West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety spokesman, Lawrence Messina, says rules are already being implemented across the state:

  • Workers are performing frequent cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas
  • Temperatures of anyone entering a division of corrections and rehabilitation facility are being taken
  • Inmate medical co-pays are suspended
  • The department will hold video court appearances
  • Volunteers and visitors are no longer entering facilities
  • All out-of-state travel is canceled for Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) employees

Also, some of the n95 masks bought by Governor Jim Justice on Thursday are reserved for DCR facilities.

“They’re screening staff, and are taking the same measures that we’re talking about in many of the other settings,” says West Virginia State Health Officer, Dr. Cathy Slemp. “And remember, those are essential service workers. Protect them.”

There are some rumors going around that non-violent criminals are being released to decrease the size of jail populations.

According to Messina: ‘releasing any pretrial defendant is within the jurisdiction of county magistrates and circuit judges.’

In other words, the jails do not control that.

Lastly, because no volunteers or visitors are allowed to go into the jails during this time, kiosk vendors have agreed to weekly allotments of free phone calls and video visits.

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