SIDNEY — Safety measures taken by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office have kept COVID-19 from inside the jail.
Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart, during his weekly interview, said the precautions remain in effect today and will continue until the pandemic is over. He was joined for the interview by Sgt. Karla Pleiman, jail administrator.
“I’d like to thank the citizens and policing agencies for their cooperation in keeping the jail population down,” said Lenhart. “If a person commits a violent crime, they are coming to jail.”
However, Lenhart said, if someone has committed a nonviolent crime, they will be served a summons to court instead of being booked into jail.
“Because of this, we’ve been able to keep the virus out of the jail,” said Lenhart. “But Dr. Fred Hausman (jail physician) tells us, at some point, the virus will get into the jail. The health and welfare of our staff and those incarcerated is of the utmost importance to us.
“I did have one citizen call last week with constructive criticism on whether an individual should be in jail.
On Aug. 24, a new receiving area will open for the jail, said Lenhart.The opening date depends on the final inspection of the area.
“This will provide us five cells for seven people for incarceration,” said Lenhart. “The air handling system is separate from the regular jail.”
If a contaminant, such as drugs or even the coronavirus is detected in the receiving area, none of the contaminants can get to other parts of the jail.
“The jail will remain operational,” said Lenhart. “Dispatch will remain operational.”
With the $1 million receiving area nearing completion, Lenhart said it will also give them more flexibility in booking inmates and keeping them in quarantine for 14 days.
“I’d like to thank the Shelby County Commissioners for their support with the project,” said Lenhart.
Pleiman said there are currently 79 inmates at the jail, which includes 33 federal inmates.
“All prisoners were in a 14-day quarantine whether they were symptomatic or not,” said Pleiman.
When the inmate first arrives at the jail, they fill out a questionnaire and have their temperature taken. If they are symptomatic, the medical staff becomes involved.
“All staff and inmates are required to wear masks,” she said. “If the inmate is in their cell, then they don’t have to wear a mask.”
Pleiman said the inmates have cooperated with the new protocols.
“We are doing more cleaning and extended cleaning to keep the virus our of the jail,” said Pleiman.
The only people allowed in the jail are the corrections officers and FED teacher. All visits — whether with attorneys, the court or family members — are done via phone calls or virtually with Zoom and GoToMeeting programs.
Lenhart and Pleiman said the jail is slowly accepting prisoners who were furloughed back into the jail to complete their sentence.
If a COVID-19 test is required, Hausman orders the test and results are back within 24 hours.
“We have a protocol in place in case we do have a positive test,” said Pleiman.
“Dr. Hausman and the health department worked with us to get the policy and procedures in place,” said Lenhart. “They went out of their way to work with us. The courts have been very supportive to help slowdown the possible spread of the virus.”
Lenhart predicts with the courts slowly opening back up, his office will have a busy couple of months ahead of them.
The Sidney Daily News conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.