Criminal justice systems try to defend against COVID-19

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As the coronavirus continues to spread, jail cells are a sanitary concern for inmates, visitors and staff. Precautions advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are difficult to enforce. 

Major of Jail Operations at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Troy Goodnough has coordinated several plans against the spread of the COVID-19 within cells. 

“We screen everybody that comes into jail with a series of questions regarding symptoms of the virus,” Goodnough said. “We are not letting anyone in unless they’re an employee, have been arrested, or are an essential service. We are taking the temperatures of everyone who enters the secured area and have a medical staff seven days a week.” 

Goodnough not only manages people who enter the jail, but keeps a sanitary environment inside as well. 

“Unfortunately, our inmates don’t usually practice good hygiene, so we are constantly cleaning to keep any virus out of the jail,” Goodnough said. “We have drastically reduced what crimes we will accept into jail, such as stealing a pack of gum. We always do our best to isolate inmates who are sick as well.”

As jails prepare for the worst, courthouses are taking the same precautions. 

Monroe County Clerk Sharon Lemasters is providing services, but only by appointment.  

“If you need any vital or court records, you have to call a specific number and set up an appointment to come in and pick up whatever is needed,” Lemasters said. “As far as the courts go, they are wrapping up as much as they can while judges make preparations for future weeks.” 

With most public buildings closed except essential services, many appointments are online. 

County Administrator and Chief Financial of Monroe County Officer Michael Bosanac said,

“Many meetings are being rescheduled and proceedings are being deferred,” Bosanac said. “The only cases that we are hearing would be when somebody’s constitutional right to speedy trial or adjudication. If you have a case hearing in jail, you’ll be brought over to determine whether or not you stay or go.”

(Editor’s note: With classes moving online, some Michigan State journalism students are reporting about their home communities.)

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