Daviess County officials say they have no plans to loosen restrictions on the operations at the Daviess County Security Center. Daviess County Sheriff Gary Allison put in severe restrictions for visitation at the jail last month and reorganized operations when the county’s work-release population was put on home detention.
Those actions along with a plan to try and limit arrests brought down the jail population to around 115 prisoners.
“That is a number that we can deal with well,” said Allison. “We still have 17 out-of-county prisoners, but we have not taken in any new out-of-county inmates since the first of the year.”
Allison said the action was all taken to try and keep the coronavirus out of the jail. So far the efforts have worked well, but not perfectly.
“We did have the one guy that we brought in that tested positive,” said Allison. “He was still under our standard quarantine and was not turned into the general population until he was cleared. We have not had anyone else at the jail show any symptoms for the virus.”
New prisoners brought to the jail are now routinely kept under quarantine before being put into the general jail population.
“We are still getting the DUIs and the more serious crimes brought in,” said Allison. “We are also bringing in those who are violating their probation and home detention that they received in place of work release.”
The county shut down the work release program because officials said that in the past, during flu epidemics, that was where the disease would often enter the facility.
“About 30 of our work release prisoners work at Perdue,” said Allison. “If you look around the country you see where meat-packing plants are one of the places where there have been a lot of outbreaks.”
So far, there has been no coronavirus issue reported at Perdue and the Daviess County Health Department has had high praise for the efforts the business has taken to try and separate workers and keep them COVID-19 free.
The Perdue plant may well be one of the exceptions. A couple of weeks ago, plants in Delphi and Logansport were closed by outbreaks. In Logansport, more than 1,000 workers were diagnosed with the coronavirus. Just this last week, the Farbest plant in Huntingburg reported 42 cases of the virus.
“We feel closing the work release has had a real impact on keeping the virus out of the jail,” said Allison. “It has also given us more space in the jail to try and keep the prisoners separated.”
When it comes to going back toward the way things were, Allison said he does not have total discretion on those decisions, but he thinks it may be a while.
“A lot of what we do will depend on what the courts decide as far as their reopening,” said Allison. “I have no idea when we will bring back the work release prisoners, and that will really be a court decision also.”
Some of the things that are at the sheriff’s discretion are going through some adjustments.
“We still are not having people come into the jail, and we are not allowing visitation at the stations in the lobby.”
The sheriff has opened up for the handling of vehicle titles now that the BMV has reopened, and will soon start processing gun permits.
Jails and prisons by their nature can be a place where infections and disease can spread easily and for that reason the sheriff appears in no hurry to go back to the previous operations.
“I think we will open up before the nursing homes and hospitals,” said Allison. “But there have been some very serious outbreaks in jails and prisons around the state and I am receiving no guidance from the department of corrections suggesting we should do away with any of our precautions.”