Lincoln County Sheriff: ‘We do have a COVID procedure’ for the jail

Published 10:00 am Saturday, August 7, 2021

In the wake of recent surges in new COVID infections across the state, and the midweek death of Hinds County Sheriff Lee D. Vance confirmed as coronavirus-related, concerned citizens are asking what procedures are in place at Lincoln County Jail and law enforcement.

Brookhaven Police Chief Kenneth Collins and Lincoln County Sheriff Steve Rushing have confirmed that their officers have personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves to protect themselves, and the sheriff has confirmed that the jail does have a process that is followed to help prevent an outbreak.

“We do have a COVID procedure,” Rushing said. “When someone new is brought into the jail, we go through a checklist kind of like the hospital uses, asking about symptoms, etc. We take temperatures and give them masks.”

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If a new inmate shows symptoms, that person is isolated and observed for a couple of days or referred to a nurse, depending upon the severity of the symptoms or what the person indicated on the questionnaire, Rushing said.

If the nurse or a doctor thinks the inmate needs to be tested, he or she is transported to a clinic or the hospital to be tested.

Sheriff Rushing said access to the jail area is restricted as much as possible to keep anyone who may be sick but asymptomatic from transmitted the virus or any other illness. Visitors utilize a video visitation system that was established about a year before the pandemic hit, Rushing said, which eliminates the concern over transmittal to or from outside visitors.

The protocol for dealing with possible infections was strengthened following an outbreak at the jail in early 2020. Corrections Officer Marshall Lee “Bem” London Jr. died in May as a result of contracting COVID-19 during that outbreak.

If a jail or sheriff’s office employee shows symptoms of the virus, they do not come to work, the sheriff said.

“We’ve just got to deal with it as it comes up,” he said.

The Lincoln County Jail can house a maximum of 115 to 120 prisoners at any given time, including a 10-person work crew. The jail has averaged 80-90 prisoners per day over the past week, Rushing said. Guidelines for utilizing the work crew during the pandemic are provided by the state work program, which LCSO follows and implements.

On Friday, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued an emergency order implementing safeguards in all state courts, giving individual judges discretion to adopt whatever safety measures they see fit for court appearances. Corrections officers will adapt accordingly to keep officers, court personnel and inmates safe when needing to appear in court during the time of the emergency order.