Hughes County Jail Making Adjustments To Deal With Possible Coronavirus Threats

(KCCR) — The Hughes County Jail is undergoing some changes in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Sheriff Darin Johnson updated Hughes County Commissioners Thursday about what’s changing at the jail. He says they’re working on reducing the jail’s general population…

“Both state and federal.  I’ve worked with the States Attorney’s office and the judges about doing more I-TV court hearings.  I’d love to go all I-TV if that’s possible.  That’s not possible on a lot of cases, like sentencings.  Federal guidelines mandate sentencings have to be done face-to-face.  I have made just  local request to other law enforcement agencies to use their best discretion when they’re out on the street dealing with situations that might require, normally like fresh arrests, traffic stops; coming across a warrant hit that’s out on the street.  So we’re just trying to get the word out to the local, different agencies to use extreme discretion on who they decide to put handcuffs on and haul to jail.”  

Johnson says they are working with defense attorneys about remote access to clients, but the attorneys are expressing concerns about confidentiality. Some sobriety programs are being suspended…

“I have suspended the 24-7 program.  That happened at the end of last week. The HOPE U-A program is also suspended and also the SCRAM program where they have the bracelets that do the alcohol monitoring.  The HOPE U-A program is a DUI program where twice a week, people that are in the HOPE program come to the jail and give urine samples for testing things like that.  We’ve suspended those and that’s in line with a lot of other counties across the state.”
Another concern for Johnson is staffing in case jail employees get ill…

“If it gets to the point where staffing becomes a safety concern, I may designate some of my deputies to go up and help with certain shifts or possibly call on some part time help.  The name of Todd Johnson popped up.  You know, I don’t think he’s working right now with the school being closed and it might be where I make a call to Todd and say ‘hey’ cause he worked at the jail before and with your permission I’d like to be able to pursue avenues like that if needed because I foresee some staffing issues coming up.  Cause we can’t run the jail with two or three people working a shift, it’s just…that dangerous for inmates and staff.”
Hughes County lost the use of Department of Corrections trustees for cleaning after the Monday escape of nine trustee inmates. The jail has turned to their inmates and staff for cleaning. Johnson is also enacting health screenings and is researching the purchase Covid-19 test kits that use blood samples and return results nearly immediately. As of Wednesday 130 inmates were housed at the Hughes County Jail with a max capacity hold just over 160.