By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Yamhill County Jail trying to reduce inmate population

The Yamhill County Jail is working to lower the inmate population by identifying those who qualify for potential release from custody during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are doing this with the hopes of not having so many inmates in such close proximity of each other in case we do end up with the virus in the facility,” jail commander Capt. Rich Geist said.

Inmates will have to return to the facility to complete their sentences at a more appropriate time.

There were 101 inmates in custody at 3 a.m. Thursday, according to the jail roster. The facility has been averaging about 180 daily over the last two years, Geist said.

Visitations between inmates and family members and friends are being suspended for an indefinite period.

“The current population is considered low and we are intentionally reducing our population with the cooperation from the district attorney’s office and circuit court,” he said.

The goal is to lower the population to below 100 during the pandemic in an effort to reduce the risk of any inmate or staff member being infected with coronavirus. The jail also is working with the Department of Community Justice.

“It also allows us to keep inmates separated better in the facility, and if the virus does happen to make it in here and we go into a quarantine lockdown, it will make it easier for us to manage the population we have,” Geist said.

Defendants booked into the facility will be initially screened by having their temperature taken to ensure they do not have a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher.
All staff, contracted employees and attorneys who the facility and utilize the visiting booths also will be screened.

At the beginning of March, additional medical screening was added as part of inmate intake procedures, Geist said. Those being booked into the facility were asked about their health and recent travel out of the country.

The sheriff’s office consulted with jail commanders in other Oregon counties last week in an effort to limit the number of inmates received. Geist said the following measures were put in place.

n Suspended all inmate programs for 30 days.

n Quit using volunteer help in the facility.

n Restriction of visits from post-prison supervision/probation officers and other staff. Phone calls are being facilitated between the parties.

More restrictions and adjustments are expected. Pretrial release interviews with inmates will take place by phone rather than in person. The circuit court has moved to more video proceedings.

Fewer individuals charged with misdemeanor crimes are being booked into jail. Inmate work crew operations are suspended for an indefinite period.

The Community Justice Department has also agreed to suspend a work release sentence for inmates so they can still go to work but not serve sentences until later.

“Several other changes have been made at the state level regarding the transporting of inmates to and from other jails in order to try and prevent an outbreak of COVID-19,” Geist said.

“All of this is being done here with the intent of keeping COVID-19 out of the Yamhill County Jail. Jails are not an ideal place for a virus like this to break out as it will cause the facility to be quarantined, including staff who have been exposed,” he said.

In neighboring Washington County, Sheriff Pat Garrett earlier this week announced about 60 inmates had been considered for early release due to either a medical condition or nature of their sentence. Inmates were released starting Tuesday.

Defendants serving short sentences or nearing the end of a sentence were high on the priority release list.

Inmates charged with domestic violence and sex-related crimes are not eligible for early release status.

“We are not just doing this to let offenders out of jail,” Garrett told The Oregonian. “We are taking measures to prevent virus infections, to protect everybody in the jail facility and to maintain the long-term viability of our jail operations.”

He said the goal became to book fewer people and to focus on serious violent crimes.

“We are meeting our objective to make appropriate releases of medically at-risk adults in custody while creating space needed to support social distancing, and be prepared to carve out a housing unit in case we need to isolate people,” Washington County Deputy Brian Van Kleef told the News-Register.

David Patton, executive director of the Federal Defenders of New York, told the Associated Press jails are “ticking time bombs.”

“They’re overcrowded and unsanitary in the best of times. They don’t provide appropriate medical care in the best of times, and these certainly are not the best of times,” he said.

In Los Angeles, the nation’s largest jail system has trimmed its population by more than 600 since Feb. 28, allowing many inmates with fewer than 30 days left on their sentences to be released early.

In Cleveland, judges held a special session last weekend to settle cases with guilty pleas and released more than 200 low-level, non-violent inmates.

The release of all non-violent felons and those being held on misdemeanors in Miami is being urged.

“No judge wants to have a dead prisoner on his conscience,” said Bill Barzee, a Miami defense attorney.


Christmas has Talons

This is inexcusable I hope we get a chance to get rid of this Sheriff if this is the type of leadership he is going to continue. I care about Yamhill county residents who are law abiding I could not give a damn less about criminals. Who is actually dumb enough to think one of these criminals is going to respect any type of direction for curfew or social distancing when they get out?
They can get Captain tripps for all I care as long as not one innocent person is put in harms way.


Oh come on Christmas, all these fine law abiding citizens will turn themselves back in to finish their sentence when they are told to (PURE sarcasm!!) Its just a way they will recoup some money, with FTA's and warrants. There is always at LEAST 200 people in there, right now, there are 82.


Correction, down to 80 now

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