Local jail shares inmate safety guidelines during coronavirus pandemic

The Lee County Sheriff's Department and jail in Tupelo shared some of their operating procedures and plans to help keep inmates safe.

Posted: Aug 11, 2020 9:38 PM
Updated: Aug 11, 2020 11:27 PM

TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) -- Jails continue to operate during the public health crisis. The safety of inmates comes to concern.

Lee County Jail in Tupelo shared how its staff is working to try and keep the coronavirus out of their facility.

Inmates are seeing little change in how they live inside during the pandemic. One new thing is the screening process prisoners have to go through before they are allowed admittance.

The jail and the Sheriff’s office have almost shut down public access to the facility. Public access is limited. Visitation with inmates is cancelled, and business such as background checks is done online.

“The safety of our citizens and their livelihood is of our utmost importance and my priority,” said Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson.

According to Johnson, the jail has not had a single coronavirus case since the pandemic began. However, coronavirus guidelines have proven challenging to follow.

“Unfortunately the way our housing situation is, there is absolutely no way to quarantine people down here or do social distancing,” he said.

He added the jail was in line to get a new facility several years ago, but they did not receive it.

“We’re stuck in the same building with the same problems, and now you’ve compounded those problems with this COVID issue, that we’re not prepared to deal with.”

He described inmate admittance. Each inmate has to go through a screening process, approved by the jail’s medical staff, before he or she is allowed inside. That process includes temperature checks and filling out a questionnaire.

“It’s just general questions. It’s very quick, and, you know, I couldn’t tell you but it’s going to be a very, very low number of individuals that we’ve turned away because they answered the question that caused a red flag.”

He wouldn’t share what the coronavirus-directed questions are to keep the integrity of the test. He didn’t want to give away the correct answers.

The jail does not test new inmates for the coronavirus unless they show symptoms. He said all tests they have done so far have been negative.

In the event of a positive case, Johnson said the plan is to begin quarantining prisoners next door at the Juvenile Detention Center.

The center has fewer people inside right now in case the jail needs to quarantine. According to the Sheriff, most days it has none.

“Since it’s not in here, we hope we can quarantine the virus outside, and not allow the thing to get in, so I think quarantine, we’re doing it, it’s just a different manner of quarantine than what you think.”

The sheriff added inmates do not wear masks inside the jail because they are all essentially mass-quarantined from the outside world.

If any inmates leave the jail, such as to go to court, then they do receive a medical face mask.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 479326

Reported Deaths: 9353
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32779484
Hinds30924582
DeSoto30319353
Jackson23542341
Rankin21235366
Lee14803219
Madison14120271
Jones13327223
Forrest13078236
Lauderdale11501303
Lowndes10377176
Lamar10163130
Pearl River9008217
Lafayette8193137
Hancock7404111
Oktibbeha6909122
Washington6900150
Monroe6459159
Neshoba6441201
Warren6387163
Pontotoc623093
Panola6203125
Bolivar6072144
Marshall6068121
Union571386
Pike5574135
Alcorn533289
Lincoln5283131
George466072
Scott454796
Leflore4444140
Prentiss443377
Tippah442180
Itawamba441599
Adams4376116
Tate4327101
Simpson4313112
Wayne430766
Copiah429587
Yazoo419686
Covington413292
Sunflower4123104
Marion4073104
Leake395486
Coahoma391098
Newton367274
Grenada3543104
Stone350359
Tishomingo333288
Attala324286
Jasper313162
Winston303091
Clay294173
Chickasaw286265
Clarke279890
Calhoun263940
Holmes261387
Smith248048
Yalobusha219647
Tallahatchie217550
Walthall209958
Greene206845
Lawrence205732
Perry198553
Amite197651
Webster195042
Noxubee177739
Montgomery171654
Jefferson Davis167442
Carroll161437
Tunica150834
Benton141533
Kemper138039
Claiborne126134
Choctaw126026
Humphreys125937
Franklin116328
Quitman103426
Wilkinson101536
Jefferson87333
Sharkey62320
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 778549

Reported Deaths: 13665
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1105871747
Mobile704651206
Madison49152610
Baldwin35946479
Shelby35796302
Tuscaloosa33410532
Montgomery32906672
Lee22231216
Calhoun20791397
Morgan19605326
Etowah18837449
Marshall17465272
Houston16452368
St. Clair15233293
Limestone14376182
Cullman14348246
Elmore14241256
Lauderdale13298278
Talladega12699230
DeKalb12036233
Walker10430323
Autauga9568133
Blount9555152
Jackson9235146
Coffee8728169
Colbert8426179
Dale8410170
Escambia6526114
Tallapoosa6501172
Covington6396163
Chilton6293141
Russell598555
Franklin5719100
Chambers5315133
Marion4734115
Dallas4665182
Clarke457076
Pike456294
Geneva4315116
Winston417192
Lawrence4086108
Bibb401680
Barbour341968
Marengo323183
Butler314988
Monroe314652
Pickens300470
Randolph299955
Henry298356
Hale289383
Cherokee284652
Fayette275672
Washington244848
Crenshaw235168
Clay225163
Macon217657
Cleburne217149
Lamar192140
Conecuh179646
Lowndes170158
Coosa166432
Wilcox155736
Bullock147742
Perry136036
Sumter124136
Greene120142
Choctaw72826
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Fall has started off exactly as you would have anticipated and it looks like we should have a number of dry days still ahead, but this isn’t a permanent switch, because heat is pegged to return.
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