19 offenders have COVID-19 in jail, corrections official says

The Shawnee Co. Department of Corrections
The Shawnee Co. Department of Corrections
Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 9:26 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Shawnee County Department of Corrections staff members think the COVID-19 outbreak among the jail inmates stemmed from a visitor or staff member, DOC Director Brian Cole said Thursday during an interview with 13 NEWS.

From that one person, mass testing identified another 18 people as having COVID-19, Cole said.

A total of 19 people are quarantined in one module at the corrections facility at 501 S.E. 8th.

None have been hospitalized, Cole said.

By Thursday afternoon, Cole expected that testing on all defendants housed at the corrections facility would be completed.

The facility houses 459 adults and 17 juveniles, Cole said. It’s expected all corrections staff members will be tested by the middle of next week. The facility employs 250 corrections staff.

The confining space in a corrections facility is “tough quarters” to exercise “social distancing,” the recommended six-foot distance between people during the pandemic, Cole said.

Cole thinks the COVID-19 virus was carried into the Shawnee County facility by an employee or a visitor.

Cole said corrections staff identified all the 19 people as having been from the one module.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak at the jail, a program allowing someone to serve a sentence on weekends has been suspended for the time being.

To cut possible exposure to COVID-19, people housed at the jail won’t be transported to the nearby Shawnee County Courthouse to appear in court hearings, Chief Judge Richard Anderson said. The target date to resume in-person appearances in court by defendants is scheduled to be September 25.

Anderson said one judge originally was scheduled on Thursday to handle a hearing linked to a murder, but it was postponed.

“We’ve never had a catastrophe like this before,” Anderson said of COVID-19, excluding the 9/11 attack in 2001.

“This is something that persists.”

No jury trials currently are scheduled in Shawnee County District Court due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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