The Journal Gazette
Saturday, March 28, 2020 1:00 am

20 inmates freed were near end of their terms

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

To manage the jail population during the coronavirus crisis, Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull and the Allen County prosecutor's office this week ordered the release of 20 inmates with misdemeanor charges. 

The inmates, released at 5 p.m. Wednesday, are not those who pose a threat to the community and were within 30 days of their release date, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Michael McAlexander told The Journal Gazette on Friday. 

“We're trying to be very responsible,” McAlexander said. “We're not going to let anybody go who is a danger to the community. We're making sure those who prey on others are being kept in jail.”

Other jails nationwide, including Rikers Island in New York, have released inmates because of the pandemic. McAlexander did not rule out further local releases. 

“I think we are in a world we've never been in before. I certainly wouldn't rule that out, but it would be driven by the medical situation at the time,” McAlexander said. 

Typical misdemeanor charges that might warrant release include trespassing, shoplifting, low-level drug possession, driving with a suspended license, public intoxication and disorderly conduct, McAlexander said.

The jail had about 72 people serving misdemeanor charges when the 20 were released, said Capt. Steve Stone, Allen County Sheriff's Department spokesman.

The courts and Allen County Jail staff said they are not aware of any coronavirus cases at the jail.

The jail population Friday was 682 inmates, down from more than 800 the jail was struggling to house about a year ago. The facility was built for 741 inmates. 

Releasing 20 inmates has not made a difference in how the jail is cleaned or sanitized, Stone said.

Quality Correctional Care, the for-profit medical health provider, continues to screen inmates on intake. 

Confinement officers have personal protective equipment such as goggles, masks and gloves, but are not required to wear them, Stone said. Hand sanitizer is available on each block for confinement officers, but not for inmates who are encouraged to wash their hands in sinks in the cells.

Sign up for our crime and courts newsletter

Sent daily when events warrant