Corrections officers

Correctional officers inside the mental health pod at the Charlotte County Jail in 2016. The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office has not released any inmates early due to coronavirus concerns.

More than 200 inmates will be released from county jails throughout the state to reduce the risk of spreading the virus throughout their walls.

However, Charlotte and Sarasota County Sheriff’s Offices will not be joining them.

“We are not expediting the release of nonviolent inmates at this time,” said Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Claudette Bennett. “Releasing inmates would need to be discussed with the State Attorney’s Office, as well as other entities.”

The jail is taking extra precautions to ensure inmate and staff safety, she said, such as having all visitation be conducted via video, canceling all outside inmate work and inmate programs and implementing extra cleaning protocols.

“The safety of inmates and staff are a top priority,” Bennett said.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is also not considering early release, according to spokesperson Kaitlyn Perez.

Sarasota County Jail inmates will be screened, and if they are both a risk factor and show symptoms, the inmate will be refused into the jail and will be transferred to Sarasota Memorial Hospital or another hospital if needed.

The DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office, on the other hand, has released some inmates, and is still considering releasing current inmates and new ones that come in. For some, “their release date was within a couple of weeks anyway,” said Col. James Vitali.

DeSoto County Sheriff Jim Potter, along with judges, the State Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s Office “have worked together to resolve the cases that could be resolved,” Vitali said. “We are very fortunate that unlike some larger communities, our county jail only has 146 beds.”

Jail staff is also evaluating each new arrival to prevent potential exposures to the current inmate population, and has also enacted several sanitary measures, Vitali said.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister ordered Thursday the release of 164 inmates accused of low-level, nonviolent crimes, according to the Tampa Bay Times. An additional 44 nonviolent inmates were released from Lake County Jail Wednesday after being ordered by an administrative judge, according to the Daily Commercial.


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