County jails making changes to reduce coronavirus spread

Published: Mar. 21, 2020 at 9:20 PM EDT
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Jails across the region are trying to keep the coronavirus out of their cells.

Many are releasing inmates early to free up space.

As of Saturday night, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in mid-Michigan county jails.

Sheriff's and the court system are doing what they can to keep it that way.

"We are just trying to do our due diligence the pandemic happening," Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth.

Wriggelsworth said more than 100 inmates were released from jail this week.

"It's been many, many years since we've seen 100 inmates released in a week," said Wriggelsworth.

The decision to release inmates comes from the court.

Wriggelsworth said most inmates were already at the end of their sentence.

"When we do that it gives us some flexibility. It actually gives us more flexibility inside the jail to hopefully lessen the exposure," he said.

This allows Ingham County to add a quarantine area, where new inmates spend 14 days to make sure they don't bring in coronavirus.

"If the virus was to hit the facility, it would probably run rampant through the facility one. And two it would affect the inmates and the employees," said Wriggelsworth.

"We are doing everything possible to make sure our inmates and our jail are safe," said Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich.

Reich said no one is being released early in Eaton County. Instead they are suspending all programs.

"We had one work release, that's been suspended. That person is here, not able to go outside. And our weekender program, where the judge sentenced someone to do weekends, that's been suspended," he said.

Only people who work for the Eaton County Sheriff's office are allowed in the building.

"There are so many different aspects of this virus I'm trying to protect my employees as well as the inmates," Reich said.

Reich said he will meet with the Eaton County chief judge to discuss if more steps are needed.

Area sheriffs are meeting next week to develop plans in case coronavirus does find its way into the jails.