MCLENNAN COUNT, Texas – Over 50 McLennan County inmates have been released from jail by the county in efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Major Ricky Armstrong called this an “unprecedented move” for the Sheriff’s Office.
By Thursday evening, the jail released 53 inmates with non-violent misdemeanor offenses – with dozens more of releases expected in the coming days.
“It’s unprecedented to reach out and just release all of your misdemeanors that you can,” says Armstrong.
The inmates were released on personal recognance bonds, where according to Armstrong, they didn’t have to pay any money to a bail bondsman or attorney fees. The county released them on their own to appear in court.
This is something Armstrong says he’s never seen, to this degree, in his career in law enforcement – but with concerns surrounding COVID-19, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards highly recommended the release.
Several other recommendations were mentioned by the agency, as well – including screening everyone entering the facilities.
“We’re screening people everyday. We’re checking temperatures of everybody that walks into the facilities, including law enforcement officers,” says Armstrong.
Other recommendations include limiting movement of inmates within facilities, suspending outside work details for inmates, ensuring proper sanitation of all food service equipment, informing staff and inmates of proper handwashing techniques as recommended by the CDC, and providing cleaning supplies multiple times daily for wiping down tables, benches, sinks, toilets, and phones.
“We’re cleaning more than we’ve ever cleaned. We’re cleaning everyday. Twice a day. Three times a day. We’re spraying all of the inmate areas with disinfectants,” says Armstrong.
He stresses the mass release of inmates isn’t equivalent to an expungement or anything – it’s simply a means of reducing their jail population for the time being.
“The crime is still there. They still have to appear in court and have their day in court to prove whether they are innocent or guilty, so that didn’t go away. The charge is still pending. It’s just they’re being released at this time due to the virus. To lower the count. So if something was to happen, we wouldn’t have as many people affected,” says Armstrong.
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