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Inmates’ families say Greene County jail coronavirus outbreak could’ve been avoided

Published: Aug. 6, 2020 at 10:17 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The coronavirus is inside the Greene County jail, and could be spreading. The office announced Thursday, 31 inmates and five employees have now tested positive for COVID-19 since Monday and 40 more inmates are under quarantine right now, waiting to see if they have also caught the coronavirus.

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office believes it has that outbreak contained to one housing unit. The office said it all started outside the main jail facility, which would mean the temporary trailers it uses for overpopulation. Inmates’ families believe the sheriff’s office did too little, too late to protect their loved ones from being exposed to the highly contagious virus.

“They waited until they have upwards of 40 cases to do anything, issue masks to anyone,” said Brittany Ready.

Ready’s father has been in the Greene County Jail for a couple of weeks, waiting to be transferred to a state prison facility. She talks to him every day and said he feels stuck and scared.

“They still don’t have any way to isolate other than taking them to a local hospital and contaminating everyone there. Instead, they could’ve been proactive and they wouldn’t have all of these cases,” Ready said.

Ready said her dad is living inside the temporary housing trailers where the recent outbreak likely started.

“Yeah, so now they’re just going to sit and it just keeps multiplying now, it’s essentially a petri dish,” Ready said.

Sisters Mariah and Chelsey Norris went directly to the jail earlier this week, demanding inmates be given masks after Chelsey learned her fiance was trying to protect himself by wearing a sock over his mouth and nose.

“When he’s calling me fearing for his life, I’m getting disturbed as well,” Chelsey Norris said. “They should’ve had masks in the jail facility a long time ago before any of this had to be a big deal.”

Now, face coverings are required inside the jail, but Norris said inmates haven’t been given new surgical masks since earlier this week.

“Just because you made a mistake in life doesn’t mean you don’t have a right to live,” she said.

Both families believe overpopulation makes social distancing is impossible. They say there’s no sense in adding nonviolent suspects to the mix.

“The COVID issue in the jail is going to cause way more problems than the random people in there because they didn’t go to court for a seatbelt ticket,” Ready said.

While Ready’s dad will eventually be transferred to serve his sentence, she understands most of the other inmates in Greene County have not been proven guilty.

“Most of these inmates are going to be released into society, possibly with COVID,” she said.

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office told KY3 News they didn’t have anyone available for an interview Thursday to address those families’ concerns. The office did say jail staff have stepped up cleaning efforts inside the facility, and are screening all current inmates for symptoms, along with new arrests as they come in.

Copyright 2020 KY3. All rights reserved.

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