The Montgomery County jail population has surged to around 700, a concern for the sheriff, but Ohio prisons have started accepting sentenced inmates again from the local jail, which will lower the population.
At one point last week, the jail reached more than 720 inmates, about 70 more than the jail had two weeks ago. The jail population is steadily growing, Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck said.
“Our biggest issue, our daily book-ins have really risen,” Streck said. “It’s just busy out there. There are a lot of calls.”
Before COVID-19, the jail averaged about 850 inmates at a time. That number decreased to around 450 in March at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the coronavirus outbreak, health experts have said that jailed inmates are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 as they are living in close quarters.
A high number of inmates makes it difficult for the jail to do COVID-19 precautions like social distancing, Montgomery County Jail Maj. Jeremy Roy said.
Streck said that his office is continuing to work with judges by asking them to review their cases to see if anyone inside can be released as their case goes through the justice system. He said he has a couple of employees whose full-time job now is to contact local judges and ask them to review cases.
Despite the rise, Streck and Roy said the jail has kept coronavirus cases down. At one point, the jail went 19 days without any positive tests from inmates and 17 days without any positive tests from employees. There is now only one positive case inside the jail.
Of the 700 or so inmates, about 80 are set to be sent to prison. Montgomery County got a slow start transferring sentenced inmates to prison because COVID-19 tests took more than a week sometimes to get back, Roy said. The jail has since teamed up with Public Health-Dayton & Montgomery County to make inmate testing a priority.
Because of the partnership, the jail is now testing inmates and getting the results back more quickly, Roy said, and the inmates who are sentenced to prison are being isolated from other inmates for two weeks before being transferred. The quicker test results also help jail officials know the health condition of the jail population better.
“We were glad to assist them in protecting the jail population by helping them receive priority service from the testing lab,” Public Health Spokesman Dan Suffoletto said.
In Greene County, the jail also has seen a slight increase from the earlier months of the coronavirus pandemic. Maj. Kirk Keller told the Dayton Daily News that on average there were around 300 inmates in the jail in 2019. That was cut about in half at the start of the pandemic, he said, and now the jail has about 200 inmates.
“We are very safe and we are fully operational,” Keller said, adding that the staff has implemented precautions like extra cleaning of public surfaces.
He said the jail has not had any confirmed positive tests and is also transferring sentenced inmates to prison after quarantining for two weeks.
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