PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is concerned with the current situation at the county jail. In just the past two days, he told county commissioners, there has been a spike in COVID-19 cases.
“We now, unfortunately, have a big problem at the county jail,” Sheriff Gualtieri told commissioners. “In the last 48 hours, we’ve had close to 20 people between inmates and staff that have tested positive out there.”
Sheriff Gualtieri had a conference call with police chiefs in Pinellas County and was also planning on having a conversation with jail leadership on a plan to move forward.
“We’re getting a plan together,” said the sheriff. “But we’re going to have to make some pretty significant changes out there.”
8 On Your Side reached out to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office requesting a list of the proposed changes at the jail. The agency sent a list Thursday evening.
No inmates will be transported to the courthouse and all court appearances
will be by videoconferencing.
Judges have been asked to refrain from remanding defendants to custody, but when necessary the defendants will be transported with a mask via compound transport van.
No inmates will be transported to the Florida Department of Corrections or any other correctional facilities.
Law enforcement agencies are being asked to refer all misdemeanor cases to the State Attorney’s Office or issue notices to appear and not make physical arrests except for those charged with domestic violence, violations of injunctions or people who are threat to public safety.
Law enforcement agencies are requested not to arrest anyone on a misdemeanor warrant unless it involves domestic violence or a violation of an injunction.
Officers and deputies will tell the person to report to the jail and purge the warrant by paying the bond. If a person is arrested on a misdemeanor warrant
we will contact the duty judge and seek to have the person released on their own recognizance.
All detention center members, county staff, and contract staff are required to wear a cloth or surgical mask while in the jail. N95 masks shall be worn by members
in the presence of inmates with suspected or known positive results.
All inmates will be issued and required to wear a mask when leaving their housing area or having direct contact with staff. All inmates may wear masks in their housing units.
Inmate commissary is sanitized before it arrives at the jail and distribution will occur only by jail staff.
Social workers will communicate with inmates through the inmate kiosk system.
Chaplain staff will communicate with inmates through the inmate kiosk system.
“Contact tracing is very difficult in the jail environment,” said Sheriff Gualtieri. “Because everybody’s in contact and you can’t send everybody home. You can’t cease the operations.”