Lewis County Jail Closes its Doors to General Public

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In light of the coronavirus outbreak, the Lewis County Jail closed its doors to the general public until further notice last Friday.

The closure will prevent anyone in the general public from making an in-person visit with an inmate, but they are still able to make offsite visits through video or on the phone, according to a press release.

Personnel such as government employees, bond agents, attorneys or delivery workers are still allowed to enter the jail during business hours, according to the release.

Corrections Chief Chris Sweet said that because the lobby is being closed off to the public, thus preventing in-person visits, each inmate will be given a free 20 minutes of video or phone call time through the vendor HomeWAV.

Though off-site visits are not ideal for everyone, Sweet said moving to only off-site visitation was the best possible compromise. He added that HomeWAV is a fairly user-friendly system that can be used anywhere there is internet access.

“The cool thing with this system is (you can use it) through a smartphone, home device, whatever,” Sweet said.

As of Tuesday, Sweet confirmed there were no cases of COVID-19 inside the facility, making social distancing for inmates in the jail unnecessary for now.

“We haven’t had any indication of there being coronavirus in our facility, and we wan’t to keep it like that,” Sweet said. “The way we have our system, there is not a lot of inmate-to-outside individual contact anyways, so our main concern is just who we are getting at intake.”

Sweet added that he and his staff have been keeping inmates up to date on what is happening with the coronavirus outbreak and are constantly encouraging non-pharmaceutical interventions like washing your hands.

However, if someone from inside the jail — whether it be an inmate or staff — tested positive for COVID-19, there is a plan in place for how the jail will quarantine and isolate inmates, Sweet said.

The most dramatic shift in the jail’s daily operation occurred two weeks ago and was focused on preventing COVID-19 from getting into the facility. So far, Sweet said, it has worked because there aren’t any cases of the disease in the jail.

Two weeks ago, it was recommended by the state’s Emergency Management Division, Lewis County Public Health and Social Services and NaphCare, the jail’s health provider, to begin screening all inmates that enter the facility.

Additionally, anyone else entering the jail like government employees, bond agents or attorneys would undergo a screening as well.

The screenings include a medical evaluation to determine whether the inmate is showing symptoms of coronavirus.

On Tuesday, Sweet said there had been no changes to the current precautionary protocol that has been put in place.