Thanks to the coronavirus outbreak in Oregon, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office has taken steps to protect staff members and inmates inside the Douglas County Jail.
After conference calls with the Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association, Douglas County has instituted new measures at the jail including more extensive screenings of incoming inmates, suspending inmate visitation until further notice and including several environmental precautions.
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Brad O’Dell said Sheriff John Hanlin has been working with the OSSA and the Douglas Public Health Network to determine best practices for fighting COVID-19. And that begins when inmates first arrive.
“We have a really in-depth screening process when an individual is brought into the jail,” O’Dell said.
The prisoners are met by a deputy and member of the medical staff, who will ask health screening questions and take the person’s temperature. Then the medical professional will make a decision whether or not there are concerns about the individual’s health concerning COVID-19 asking question to find out if there is a risk.
Odell said they have cut back on some of the volunteer services in the jail and limiting the number of individuals into the jail who are not considered essential for the safety and control of the jail, including food service, the chaplain and jail medical staff. The deputies are also checked when they come into work, making sure no one is coming into the facility that is sick.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, staff members are paying increased attention to the sanitation of counters, telephones, door handles and inside bunks at the jail.
Jail staff members are making extra sure everything stays clean and asking deputies to wipe down counters and commonly used items like telephones, door handles and inside the bunks in the jail.
“We’re being hyper-vigilant because our job is to provide safety and security in the jail and that includes the safety of the inmates and the workers in the facility,” O’Dell said.
All in-person inmate visitation to the jail has been suspended until further notice. O’Dell said while they recognize that it’s a hardship on inmates and their loved ones, it is a necessary precaution to ensure the welfare of the inmate population as well as the staff working inside of the facility.
The OSSA is working with local law enforcement partners, the courts, district attorney’s offices and public defenders to implement changes to the entire criminal justice system which will help manage this crisis.
The Sheriff’s Office has worked with its telephone vendor and arranged for inmates to have two phone calls per week free of charge.
In the Sheriff’s Office, the records division is suspending all public fingerprinting services until further notice. That includes pre-employment and background fingerprinting, they have canceled concealed handgun permits and the citizen ride-along program is also being suspended until further notice. Sheriff’s patrol officers are also being asked to be aware of social distancing when encountering member so the public, to protect themselves.
Hanlin said the community has been through some trying times, but is resilient.
“I encourage everyone to remain calm, to follow the recommendations of health officials and look out for one another. Together we will prevail just as we have in the past,” Hanlin said in a press release.
O’Dell recommends that if someone has business to conduct at the Sheriff’s Office, a lot of it can be conducted on the Sheriff’s website at dcso.com.