County jail preventing spread of COVID-19

News

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — With Coronavirus cases still on the rise, a big question has been, “What are jails doing to prevent the spread behind bars?”

Champaign County Sheriff Dustin Heuerman says so far, there are no COVID-19 cases among inmates or staff at the jail and office. He says they’ve made some changes to hopefully keep it that way.

Heuerman says they’ve covered the basics, like telling inmates and staff to frequently wash hands, screening them for symptoms, and providing masks.

The sheriff says they’re quarantining all new inmates for 14 days before entering the general population whether or not they show symptoms. That’s to ensure someone who may be asymptomatic isn’t around other people.

Heuerman says they’ve also released some inmates with non-violent offenses or who may be more likely to contract the disease than others.

“A common misconception is…that I can just decide what inmates are going to stay and what inmates aren’t, but that’s not true,” says Heuerman. “Whenever a judge tells me, ‘Sheriff, you will hold this person,’ I have to hold this person.”

The sheriff says they also work with the State Attorney’s Office to determine which inmates may be eligible for release. So far, this measure has reduced the inmate population by twenty percent.

Heuerman says they have 142 inmates in custody. 15 are serving sentences at home with electronic monitoring. Maximum capacity is 295.

The sheriff’s office says it has also brought down daily arrests from about 15 a day to four a day within the last month. That’s because they’ve been issuing “notice to appear in court” citations instead of arresting for some non-violent or minor offenses.

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