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Pandemic won’t give inmates get out of county jail any earlier cards

Those that were planning on showing up to the San Joaquin County Jail to serve their court-ordered sentences will get a 90-day reprieve for now.

As part of the ongoing measures to protect both jail staff and inmates from the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office has instituted a policy that will delay court-ordered walk-in commitments for three months – hoping to cut off a potential source of transmission that could wreak havoc on the relatively close confines of the secured facility.

The fact that the jail has its own medical facilities and requires constant disinfection and sterilization, however, makes it uniquely equipped to prevent exposures and respond in the event that an outbreak does occur.

“The current belief of the Sheriff’s Office is that we do not have any cases in the jail, and we have 24/7 immediate medical coverage right on site,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a release. “This contained environment with constant medical coverage exceeds the isolation, exposure, cleanliness, and medical attention available to most people outside of the jail.”

But just because the Sheriff’s Office is taking extra steps to protect staff and inmates from COVID-19, which is hitting San Joaquin County harder than other Central Valley regions, doesn’t mean that inmates are going to get to walk free – something that has been discussed and even implemented in other locations.

The fact that there can be a revolving door of inmates into and out of the facility – and that inmates have the potential of mixing with anybody once they walk out the gate – means that holding inmates for the duration of their sentence rather than letting them go may actually be the safer play.

“Many of those incarcerated in the jail are repeat offenders that, if released, have the potential to mix with all various other people and environments and bring back any exposures to the jail,” the statement read. “At this time, we believe that not releasing people early gives the inmates the safest environment and minimizes the risk of the introduction of the virus into the jail.”

Other measures being implemented for safety include:

*Suspending vendors, tours, volunteers, and other non-essential personnel from entering the facility.

*Suspending all visits with the exception of those for legal purposes. 

*Suspending work programs that send inmates out into the community or allow for work in lieu of jail.

*Providing N95 masks and other PPE for staff and the arrestee in the case anyone is presenting with symptoms or claims to be infected.

*The implementation of a health screening with a nurse before being processed into the facility from the booking area – complete with questions that are specific to COVID-19 to build a risk profile and help protect other inmates and staff.

*The creation of plans for isolated housing for those who may test positive for the virus.

The Sherriff’s Office has also increased its cleaning schedule, increased the laundry turnaround time, stocked up on cleaning supplies and soaps so that health guidelines can be followed by staff and inmates.

Several disinfecting mist machines that are capable of disinfecting large areas quickly have also been ordered and are expected to be delivered soon.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.