Montgomery jail adopts protocols, remains COVID-19 free

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Officials at the Montgomery County jail have been aggressive in both testing and watching for COVID-19 symptoms for both inmates and jail staff, and as a result, the Christiansburg jail has been and remains free of the virus.

Captain Kim Haug of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office said Wednesday no one has tested positive within the walls of the Christiansburg jail.

Haug said during the first phase of the virus, the Montgomery County Jail suspended most programs and anyone coming into the facility besides officers and lawyers had to meet health and safety protocols. 

“We adapted as many protocols suggested by the health department as we could,” Haug said. “We require masks for volunteers, lawyers, bondsmen etc. when entering the facility. Masks are worn by inmates when they are out of their housing area.”

Since the courts have opened back up, things are getting busy again, and Haug said they are slowly offering some of the programs. 

“We are allowing visitation again, and even though our visitation is through glass, we do require visitors to wear masks in the lobby,” the captain said. “We are going to start our AA meetings again next week and will do so with social distancing and masks.”

The local jail offered testing to all inmates who were in the facility at the beginning of the pandemic and continued to offer testing to inmates who came in and remained in jail. Staff are tested if they want it. If they go out of town, they must be tested and confirmed negative before returning to work. 

“We have two officers here who have been trained to test and we work directly with the health department for that,” Haug said.

The jail has also stepped up its game to continue to prevent the spread of the virus in the jail.

The facility has been extra diligent with cleaning. As Haug put it, “We’ve always been very diligent, but we’ve kicked it up a notch or two.”

Inmates must wear masks when they are not in their housing area. 

Officers have PPE items, including face shields, at their disposal when needed. 

COVID-19 testing is available for whoever wants it or needs it through the two officers who have been trained by the health department to administer the test.

New inmates are quarantined for 14 days and are tested before they are placed in the general population.  

All visitors are asked the general COVID questions and must wear a mask to enter the building.

Temperature is taken of all inmates and volunteers entering the facility. Most lawyers are meeting clients through glass partitions and are not entering the building.

“We are not a direct supervision facility, so this makes social distancing much easier for us. Deputies do not go into housing areas, so we make rounds instead,” said Haug, who said masks are required when social distancing is not possible.

The Montgomery County Jail currently has 63 inmates with a maximum allowed of 120 beds. The average daily population so far this year has been 75. Typically, the Western Virginia Regional Jail houses most of Montgomery County’s inmates.

More than 1,100 individuals incarcerated in Virginia state jails have COVID-19. More than 25,000 inmates in state jails have been tested for COVID-19.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam gave the Department of Corrections the power earlier this year to release those inmates who might be vulnerable to the virus. According to recent numbers, 273 prisoners were released. They were considered “nonviolent” and in many cases were elderly. An estimated 2,000 were initially identified to be eligible for early release.

Anyone convicted of a Class 1 felony or a sexually violent offense was not eligible for release. 

Northam called on local officials to work together to safely reduce the jail population. Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran said localities have been taking recommendations seriously and doing a good job.