COVID-19 spurs new policies at Wake County Jail

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The Wake County Sheriff’s Office is taking steps at the jail to keep inmates and detention staff safe. 

“We’ve put forward some steps that we feel very, very comfortable and very good about,” said Sheriff Gerald Baker, who oversees the jail.

He said all new arrestees will be quarantined in single cells for up to 14 days. That’s if they don’t make bail or are released sooner. 

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“The county gives us the opportunity to determine whether or not they are infected and need to be handled differently,” Baker said.

“Should anyone of them develop any of the symptoms, be it fever, cough, muscle ache, sinus pressure, sore throat, then we will re-evaluate them,” said Dr. OBI Umesi, the Wake County Sheriff’s Office Medical Director.

The inmates will also be asked questions as they enter. Baker said staff has received additional training and has a 24/7 hotline available for them. 

“The use of solitary cells for quarantine should not be the same as solitary confinement,” said Kristie Puckett Williams with the ACLU of North Carolina.

Puckett Williams said she’d liked to see the sheriff go further. Her group joined with other advocates sending letters to state officials calling on them to reduce the use of imprisonment by releasing people who are not a threat to public safety, reducing new people entering the system and protecting the health of those incarcerated. 

“We believe that that will provide a better mechanism for the sheriff to assess and evaluate people’s healthcare status,” Puckett Williams said.

There have been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus at the jail. 

The sheriff’s office said there’s no cost associated with the changes. 

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