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Douglas County Sheriff says move to new jail came at the perfect time

No staff or inmates have tested positive for the virus
Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 9:29 PM CDT
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AVA, Mo. (KY3) - Douglas County Sheriff Chris Degase and his staff opened the new county jail at the end of February. Nearly five months in and there have been zero cases of the coronavirus in the jail.

As of Wednesday night, Douglas County has reported 42 cases of COVID-19. 22 of those are active.

The sparkling new $5.8 million dollar jail opened on February 25th - less than a month before the pandemic began.

Sheriff Chris Degase says the move to the new jail came at a perfect time.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done at the old jail. We had no way to segregate, no way to quarantine anybody. We really had no way to do visitations,” Sheriff Degase told KY3.

When inmates arrive, they have their temperature taken and are checked for any symptoms of the disease. 

Then, they are decontaminated before going into a holding cell. 

“Some of the inmates spent quarantine right here. They spent their first 14 days in this cell here,” Sheriff Degase said while motioning to an empty holding cell.

Then new inmates would be kept together in a separate pod from general population.

Because of the technology upgrades, staff and inmates didn’t have to be face-to-face to handle simple tasks, like dispersing medication.

Sheriff Degase says staff and inmates constantly clean. 

"First thing in the morning, there were a lot of days, they were saying, hey we want our cleaning supplies, we want to keep this place sanitized. The inmates themselves did a good job keeping their areas clean."

When it's time for inmates to visit with their attorneys, the jail's interview room quickly transitioned into a video conference room. 

“We got great feedback from all the attorneys, Sheriff Degase explained. Our inmates stayed happy because they were able to see their attorneys and visit with their attorneys. We were able to actually get some cases through the court system rather quickly, so it was very encouraging.”

Sheriff Degase says a mixture of the new facility, new jail staff and comprehensive safety procedures are what he points to to keeping the coronavirus out of his jail. 

"It's my obligation not only to keep my staff safe, it's my obligation to keep the inmates that are in here safe and it's my obligation to keep the community safe and up to date and that's what we've tried to do here."

It should be noted that at least 10 Greene County inmates are housed in the jail each day. 

That brings in roughly $12,000 a month to help pay for operation of the jail. 

The $5.8 million jail came in $600,000 under budget and was finished ahead of schedule.

The jail can hold up to 57 inmates.

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.

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