Pandemic expected to change policies for criminal justice system

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PERRY COUNTY, Ind (WEHT)– A study done by IUPUI’s Center for Health and Justice Research found jails across Indiana, and the country, saw a one-third decrease in jail population when the pandemic first started, but most jails have started housing more inmates since then. The Perry County Detention Center was one of the 19 Indiana County jails included in IUPUI’s study. The jail’s inmate population dropped by about 30% during the first COVID-19 spike back in April. Now their inmate count is about 23% lower than right before the pandemic.

“Prior to the pandemic, things were smoother and we had more flexibility in making room,” Perry County Jail Commander David Faulkenberg explained. Law enforcement officials worked with the courts to decrease its jail population nearly 23% since last February, just before the start of the pandemic. “The ones [inmates] that are staying here are persons based on the crime and ability for them to actually return and make their court dates.”

Perry County Jail Commander David Faulkenberg says he believes moving forward, the criminal justice system will continue trying to keep jail populations low by keeping low risk offenders out of jails.

“Some of the lessons learned about how to are try to look at the possibility of alternative release issues,” said Faulkenberg.

The Perry County Detention Center is keeping its inmates spread out starting with quarantining new inmates for at least 10 days.

“Right now we have one full pod that was originally built for 12 people and we’ve got six in there that we are concerned about the time element of COVID,” explain Faulkenberg. Inmates could stay isolated longer if they’ve been a close contact or develop COVID-19 symptoms.

Faulkenberg says air-ionization systems have been installed into the jails vents to kill germs before potentially circulating through the building.

“The air filtering system now was a major upgrade from when we first built it. Nobody expected that type of problem,” said Faulkenberg.

Jail staff members have been stockpiling cleaning supplies since they wipe now wipe down doorknobs and other surfaced every 30 minutes.

“The officers, the correctional staff, even our trustees that we utilize to do some work for us, we’ve had cleaning routines,” said Faulkenberg. He predicts these cleaning habits and use of personal protective equipment will continue even after the pandemic ends.

(This story was originally published on March 23, 2021)

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