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Court documents reveal proposed Riverside County jail COVID-19 plan

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department reached an agreement with an inmate advocacy group on a plan to minimize the spread of the virus among inmates.

This dates back to April when a federal judge ruled that the Sheriff’s Department wasn't doing enough to protect inmates from coronavirus. The department was ordered to discuss a coronavirus prevention plan with the Prison Law Group, after the group against the county.

Shortly after the ruling, Sheriff Chad Bianco said jail populations are at historic lows and that department is already doing everything they can to keep people healthy inside county jails.

Months later however, the department put together a COVID-19 response plan with the help of Correctional Health Services, Riverside University Health System Medical Center, RUHS-Department of Public Health, and Department of Behavioral Health.

The plan will implement several new programs at the county's jail facilities including changes to how inmates are housed to follow physical distancing guidelines, increases in testing and personal-protective equipment, and more education for staff.

There will also be reductions to the max populations for three county jail facilities:

FacilityMax CapacityNew Adjusted Capacity
Southwest Detention Center12888
Larry D. Smith Correctional Facility928708
Blythe Jail8957

In order to ensure the safety of the vulnerable populations, the plan includes:

  • Prioritization for release or transfer to other types of housing.
    • Persons within the vulnerable population who have tested negative will be evaluated by medical and corrections staff regarding placement in housing units other than dorm units.
  • The vulnerable population receives priority consideration for alternative sentencing through our Secure Electronic Confinement Program (SECP).
  • System capacity based on projections for hospital bed needs should the virus spread more aggressively.

Inmates who are 65 years old and older or those with comorbidities is housed in one- and two-man cells and are given dayroom time alone or with the cellmate

Should jail populations increase again, the county still has close to 1,000 vacant beds and also have plans to maintain distance, such as Secured Electronic Confinement Program (SECP) and Federal releases for low-level inmates.

A federal judge still needs to approve the plan. Stay with News Channel 3 for continuing updates.

As of July 22, there are 273 confirmed cases in county jails, 207 recoveries and 2 inmate deaths.

Two Riverside County Sheriff deputies have died of coronavirus as well. Deputy Terrell Young who was most recently assigned at Cois Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta and Deputy David Werksman, who was most recently assigned to Sheriff’s Administration.

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Jesus Reyes

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