WENATCHEE —Add the Chelan County Regional Justice Center to the growing list of agencies adopting temporary changes to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Officials are limiting the number of people the jail allows to be booked and visitations have been put on hold.
As of Wednesday, and until further notice, the jail stopped accepting bookings for misdemeanor arrests, except those that pose a “clear threat” to public safety, as deemed by the arresting officer, Larson said. Examples include DUIs and domestic violence-related arrests.
“This is all centered on trying to reduce the risk of the virus entering the jail,” said Interim Director Bill Larson on Wednesday.
Inmates are monitored regularly by the jail’s medical staff and none of the 178 inmates have shown signs of the coronavirus, Larson said.
The jail also suspended visitations indefinitely, though jail officials are working with a phone vendor to provide inmates with a way to make phone calls free of charge, Larson said. The quantity of calls inmates would be able to make is still being negotiated.
“We do want to take some proactive measures to let them make phone calls,” Larson said.
There has been talk among attorneys and jail officials about potentially releasing low-risk inmates, but discussions are very much in preliminary stages.
“It’s not a decision we can make at the snap of your fingers,” Larson said.
He’s still researching how it would work and ultimately, the decision of who to release would be made by prosecutors in Chelan and Douglas counties.
Inmates with high health risks would likely be considered first, depending on the nature of the crime they’re accused of, Larson said.
Jailers have been instructed to implement similar or identical hygiene standards advised to the public by health officials, like frequent hand washing and to stay home if sick. Inmates are also screened for coronavirus symptoms.
Social distancing, the widely recommended practice of limiting close contact with others to stop the spread of germs, isn’t entirely possible at the jail.
“To a large extent, (social distancing) can’t really apply here in this facility,” Larson said. He added, “We encourage social distancing as much as we can but in this environment it’s pretty difficult.”
With the exception of inmates kept in single-person cells, the majority of inmates are kept in general population cells, and correction officers need to be in close, often physical, contact with inmates, Larson said.