ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Local law enforcement and criminal justice officials are working to lower the population at the Roanoke City Jail amid the coronavirus pandemic, leading to the release of dozens of offenders.

Through efforts by the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney, a total of 61 offenders have been released from the Roanoke City Jail due to COVID-19. All the offenders had release dates scheduled for the month of June, but because of the pandemic, they were released in May and June instead.

Officials used factors — such as the severity of offenders’ charges, their release dates, and their health conditions — in order to determine who to release.

According to a news release from the sheriff’s office on Monday, Aug. 17, among the 389 inmates tested at the Roanoke City Jail on Aug. 14 per recommendations from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), 10 tested positive, bringing the jail’s total case tally up to 14.

As of Monday, authorities say there are still no hospitalizations due to COVID-19 among inmates or staff. In addition, the inmates who tested positive have been reclassified to designated quarantine housing.

Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office announced plans to partner with the VDH to test all staff members, contract employees, and vendors who had physical contact with the jail or the administrative areas at the sheriff’s office.

Authorities will also reportedly continue with the following safety and screening measures already in place at the jail:

  • Screening of any inmate, staff member, contract employee, vendor, or visitor before
    they are admitted to the sheriff’s office or Roanoke City Jail, with both a temporal
    thermometer screening and questionnaire
  • Stopping all non-essential personnel from coming into the facility (volunteers, in person
    visits, non-contact attorney visits, etc.)
  • Enhanced arrestee medical screening process, which includes quarantining new inmates
    for 14 days before they are moved to general population
  • Working with the court system, Public Defender’s Office, and Commonwealth Attorney
    to lower the jail population by approximately 31 percent
  • Requiring masks for jail staff
  • Requiring masks for inmates when moving throughout the facility
  • Providing additional PPE to staff and inmates, as needed
  • Establishing isolation and quarantine protocols for new and symptomatic inmates
  • Enhanced cleaning procedures throughout the facility
  • Allowing inmates extra hygiene products and education on COVID-19 symptoms
  • Waiving medical co-pays for any inmate experiencing COVID-19 symptoms

In addition to the above measures, the jail also temporarily suspended weekender programs, delayed confinement, inmate work crews, and court-ordered work force. Delayed confinement resumed July 6th and weekender programs resumed July 11th.

According to a spokesperson with the Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office, there were about 550 offenders housed at the Roanoke City Jail prior to the pandemic. However, the jail population is currently at less than 400.

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