The Upshur County Sheriff’s Office has restricted those suspected of incarceration and suspended in-person visits to inmates at the jail due to recent cases of COVID-19.
Upshur County Sheriff Larry Webb said in a statement Tuesday that the Gilmer facility has had its first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in recent weeks.
“About three weeks ago, medical staff (…) confirmed cases in the prison, both inmates and staff, and mitigating measures were immediately implemented,” Webb said. .
He said he believed the “vigorous cleaning and disinfection” policies instituted at the start of the pandemic had helped keep the virus at bay. No detainees were hospitalized because of the virus.
Visits to inmates were suspended for 30 days, Webb said, and the sheriff’s office changed who was in jail.
“As this disease is highly contagious, the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office has restricted inmate booking unless it is really necessary,” Webb said in the statement. “Criminal proceedings will be brought against those who were allegedly arrested there, and arrest warrants will be requested for these people when the disease disappears in the prison. Members of Parliament will continue to arrest anyone who poses an immediate threat to public safety.
Arrests will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis when it comes to putting a suspect in jail, Webb said.
“It’s similar to what the Gregg County Jail also does,” Webb said in an interview Tuesday. “Non-violent offenses are what we’re looking at. If it is in the best interests of the citizens, then we will have to put them in jail.
In violent crime situations, suspects will continue to be registered at the facility. Webb said the limit on reservations is only set until COVID-19 cases are under control.
“The safety of citizens is our number one concern, always,” he said. “We are trying to do everything we can to reduce exposure for everyone.”
“We’re taking this pretty seriously. We will continue to do our work. “
Upshur County Jail is working with the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, the Texas Department of State Health Services and its prison doctors to deal with the disease. Webb said the prison has three negative pressure cells to help control the spread of the disease.
“We fought it for as long as we could, and ultimately if you walk around the snakes long enough, one will bite you eventually,” Webb said of the pandemic.
Webb said Upshur County Jail is working with the NCIC’s inmate phone service to provide video calls to inmates during the suspension of in-person visits. At the moment, detainees are entitled to two 20-minute video tours.
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office has also suspended in-person visits to inmates due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page on Monday, the sheriff’s office said its staff were working with state and local health officials for the best course of action.
To protect inmates and employees, in-person visits to the Cherokee County Jail are suspended for the next 30 days. Inmates will be allowed to use a free video tour each week, according to the sheriff’s office.
“Pray for our staff, our inmates and our community as we go through this situation,” the statement read.
In figures released Monday, the Northeast Texas Public Health District did not report any known cases of COVID-19 in Gregg County or Smith County jails.