Law. Co. Jail taking precautions to prevent COVID-19 among inmates, staff

Steve Chapman

Temperatures taken, visitations suspended, video sessions among measures to fight germ spread behind bars
When Gov. Mike Parson issued a stay-at-home order in March to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Missouri, one of the requirements was for people to practice social distancing by maintaining a six-foot separation from one another while out in public. However, in enclosed places like the Lawrence County Jail, social distancing can be difficult to practice. For that reason, jail staff is taking certain precautions to prevent both the inmates and themselves from being infected with the virus.
Lt. Doug Bounous, of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, who supervises the jail, said one of the precautions is that everyone who enters the jail has their temperature taken before they enter.
“Basically, anybody that enters the jail is getting their temperature checked, and if it’s a detainee, then we do a medical protocol and refer it to our medical provider,” he said. “If it is an employee, then I’m to be notified, and I will deal with it.”
One exception is for attorneys.
“If it’s an attorney or somebody coming in for a professional visit, then they’re just out of our jail, so they bring me something from their doctor that says they are not contagious,” Bounous said.
Other steps are also being taken. For the time being, inmate visitations are suspended, and cleaning and disinfecting of the jail facilities are happening more frequently.
“We kind of doubled-down on cleaning and stuff, but cleaning is done on a daily basis in the jail anyhow,” Bounous said. “Some of the commons areas of the jail that maybe got disinfected and mopped and stuff once or twice a week is now getting it every day.”
The biggest change at the jail, Bounous said, is that most attorneys are now visiting with their clients via video sessions instead of in person.
“I don’t know I would say it was a major inconvenience, but it obviously is an inconvenience because most of the attorneys have chosen not to come visit their clients,” Bounous said. “They’re doing it by video, and that’s what the biggest pain is, because those video sessions have to the scheduled through the circuit clerk’s office and it’s on the state system, and then we’ve got to make sure we’ve got our Polycom … on and have the inmate in front of … the camera at the appointed time.
 Of course, that interrupts normal operations at the jail.”
While there have been a couple of scares, Bounous said that so far, no inmates or staff at the jail are infected with COVID-19.
“We’ve had a couple (that) were tested and came back negative,” he said.
For the foreseeable future, Bounous said the protocols put in place to keep COVID-19 out of the jail will remain in place.
“We’ll kind of play it by ear (and) see what the state does,” he said.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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