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Sheriff: Jackson County jail population returns to pre-COVID levels

Facility's gym has transformed into dormitory
jackson county jail
Posted at 5:57 PM, Oct 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-14 23:56:38-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — All of the nearly 800 inmates at the Jackson County Detention Center have received a COVID-19 test as of Wednesday, according to Sheriff Darryl Forté.

He tweeted Monday that there are at least 51 positive cases at the jail facility with "300 inmates on quarantine or precautionary quarantine."

Artez Heron-Thomas is worried his brother — Khalid Heron-Boone, an inmate who is asthmatic — will get infected with the jail population on the rise again after initially cutting back on the number of inmates during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They’re in open cots," Heron-Thomas said. "They don't have any one-block cell or two people in a cell."

Forté said the Jackson County Detention Center, located at East 13th and Cherry streets, practices social distancing, but that's become challenging as the population returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Around 200 inmates were inmates were released in mid-April to alleviating crowding at the jail, but the current inmate population has returned to normal levels. That's meant from creative living arrangements to maintain social distancing.

The jail's gym has been transformed into a dormitory with beds spaced out.

"They only provide them with one mask and that one mask is the only mask that they can get, so if gets wet. or if it gets anything. somebody takes it from them or anything. they're not re-providing them with a mask."

Forté said that's not entirely true. He said inmates are given one mask at a time, not stacks of them, and are encouraged to wear them. If an inmate's mask gets damaged, misplaced or stolen, it is replaced.

With concern on the rise as the pandemic rages on, Forté said friends and family of inmates with questions or needing to lodge a complaint can reach out by phone or email to corrections@jacksongov.org.

For many loved ones, they only want the inmates treated with dignity and compassion.

"I believe that they're still humans and they haven't been convicted of any crime," Heron-Thomas said. "They haven't been found guilty of any crime."

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