Washington County jail releases more inmates in COVID-19 preparation measure

KNWA

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Washington County jail released another round of inmates to keep the population down in case of a COVID-19 outbreak.

The new batch of inmates totaled 81, according to Jay Cantrell, Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy. The majority of them are older than 45, a population deemed “at-risk” as the number of positive COVID-19 cases reaches to more than 300 in Arkansas.

The inmates are non-violent offenders, Cantrell said. They were chosen from a list drawn up by jail administrators that was approved by Prosecuting Attorney Matt Durrett and Circuit Judge Mark Lindsay.

The jail released more than 70 inmates last week. Other changes in the criminal justice system include virtual meetings, like the ones used by clients and Leana Houston, Chief Deputy Public Defender. The meetings limit contact and nullify the spread of the virus.

“Nothing compares to a face-to-face interview, but we’re having to come up with other ways to talk to them right now just to keep them safe, keep the people who work at the jail safe, keep everybody healthy as long as possible,” Houston said.

There are plans to target even more inmates, Houston said, and the electronic monitoring program is keeping tabs on released individuals.

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