Okla. jail staff on COVID-19: 'We're taking every precaution we can'

Rogers County Jail has stations set up in both ends of the jail for officers to grab PPE and decontaminate; inmates have been given extra soap and hand sanitizer


By Cydney Baron
Claremore Daily Progress

CLAREMORE, Okla. — The families of a few inmates in Rogers County Jail said they're worried the jail isn't doing enough to keep their loved one safe from the spread of COVID-19.

But Rogers County Jail staff said that while some inmates are calling home to pull on family heartstrings, every precaution is being taken within the jail.

Lindsay Hayes said she's worried about her father, who is currently incarcerated at Rogers County Jail.

"He informed me this morning that there are other inmates that he's incarcerated with that have the COVID-19 virus and MRSA and there's nothing that is being done to keep them separated. That the guards have mask and wear them but the inmates don't have any protection from the infected," Hayes told the Progress.

"They are being forced to live their everyday life with no protection of the illness or the virus and it makes me and my family scared for my father's life."

She said inmates have the same rights, and deserve the same protection as guards.

"Their lives matter, too," Hayes said. "They are being treated unfair and un-human like."

Undersheriff Jon Sappington said his office has not heard any complaints from inmate families as of yet and that allegations that precautions aren't being taken are simply inaccurate.

"We've had no staff with confirmations. We've had really no staff with symptoms. We've had staff with potential exposure, and even that was 'three weeks ago I met a lady and she's tested positive in another county,' and that staff member has been isolated for two weeks."

Sappington said booking procedures have been changed as a precautionary measure.

"When we book someone in, they're automatically in an isolated cell for a two week period of time," he said. "We are taking the temperatures of every inmate regularly. Anyone that gets booked in has their temperature taken and every officer that comes in has their temperature taken."

He said inmates have regular access to soap and that extra provisions have even been provided at no cost to indigent inmates.

“At this time we have two stations set up in both ends of the jail for officers to have gloves, sanitizer, cleaner, mask available for use. We have two different stations for officers to decontaminate. All officers and new intakes get their temperature taken before entering into the jail,” said Jail Administrator Kellie Guess. “Inmates will have soap given to them three times a week even if they are not indigent to assist with them washing their hands. We also have hand sanitizer for inmates to spray their hands with when they leave the pod or before entering back in.”

"One inmate made claims that he has COVID-19 but was only saying it in calls to his mom because he wanted to get out of jail faster," Sappington said, adding that the inmate had neither exhibited symptoms nor been tested. "It is possible that inmates are pulling at their families heartstrings saying they are scared, in hopes their family will bond them out faster."

Sappington said as of right now no inmates have symptoms of COVID-19.

"We are taking every precaution we can," he said. "We cannot have a spread of this in our jail population, we just can't."

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©2020 the Claremore Daily Progress (Claremore, Okla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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