Jail Overcrowding

Five inmates are housed in one of the intake cells at the Howard County Jail on June 28, 2018.

The Howard County jail has also joined the list of IDOC facilities that have made conditional changes because of COVID-19.

In recent days, the facility — under advisory of the Howard County judicial system — has released roughly 85-100 low offense level inmates in an effort to reduce the risk of virus spread.

Some of those released individuals were in jail for charges like theft, non-compliance, petition to revoke and failure to appear, Jail Commander Robin Byers noted, while others were nearing the end of their sentences.

Jail officials also identified some of their high-risk population, such as those who have confirmed medical issues, and those inmates were also released with sentence modifications, Byers added.

“Some of them may have been released to in-home, but most of them went to pre-trial release programs where they still have to report to probation and follow their guidelines.”

And because of the reduced population, Byers said that has opened up the opportunity for the facility to have a 14-day transition period from the time an individual is arrested until that person is then released into the jail’s general population.

“We have been able to empty out our small housing unit [one of two that currently hold females], and what we’re doing is that we are using that as a transition unit,” Byers said. “Anybody that is now arrested, once they talk to the medical staff for their standard check … they automatically go into a section of that housing unit that has four rooms and is kind of a protective custody unit. … So anybody that’s first arrested and then through their first seven days, they go there.

“Then on day seven, they’re checked again by our medical staff to make sure there is no fever or complaints,” she added. “After that, they’re moved into another section of that same unit for seven days. Then on day 14, if there are still no signs or symptoms, they’re released into the general population.”

Byers said the new transition practice just took effect at the jail last Monday and will continue until the foreseeable future.

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