Whitley County Jailer encourages law enforcement to cite defendants to court when possible during COVID–19 pandemic
(Clarification: In the April 1, 2020, print edition of the News Journal, this story carried the headline, “Sheriff, Jailer at odds over arrest of five people Friday.” During a joint call with the News Journal Wednesday morning, Sheriff Todd Shelley and Jailer Brian Lawson explained that they were never at odds with one another over the situation. “He has a job to do. I have a job to do. We’re both about the betterment of the people of Whitley County,” Shelley said. Lawson echoed similar sentiments. “He’s doing his job. I’m doing mine,” Lawson added. Both said that with the COVID-19 situation they are dealing with things that have never been dealt with before. After the Friday night incident, the two officials met together, discussed each of their positions, and shook hands afterwards, both noted.)
The Whitley County Detention Center is continuing to operate, but questions have been raised concerning the intake of new inmates.
Whitley County Sheriff’s deputies arrested five individuals Friday on charges of trafficking in methamphetamine and other drug-related offenses.
Whitley County Sheriff Todd Shelley said Sergeant Jonas Saunders, along with deputies Chad Estep and JB Coffey, responded to 131 Elm Street in Rockholds.
“We had received a complaint about the residence,” Shelley said.
Deputies arrested, Stanley N. Kidd, Jr., 34, of Corbin, Tina M. Morrissey, 48, of Corbin, Tammy R. Fore, 41, of Rockholds, Alan D. Parker, 51, of Rockholds, and Angela L. Wilde, 36, of Rockholds after they located two bags of methamphetamine, several empty bags, digital scales, pipes, 25 Gabapentin pills, and cash in the residence.
However, according to the arrest citation when deputies transported the individuals to the detention center, jail officials refused to take them, and Whitley District Court Judge Fred White ordered that they be cited to appear in court.
“We are going to carry on like we usually do,” Shelley said of the sheriff’s department.
Whitley County Jailer Brian Lawson said while the jail is not refusing all inmates, it is limiting intakes in an effort to reduce the chance of the COVID–19 virus from being introduced into the jail.
“If it is a citable offense, we encourage all law enforcement agencies to site offenders to court. If it is a crime which is dangerous or an intimate threat to society, then all those individuals will be lodged in the Whitley county detention center,” Lawson stated in a letter to Whitley County residents
Lawson said he has spoken with local and area law enforcement agencies concerning the guidelines.
“We are working very closely with law enforcement during these difficult times to ensure that the law and order is enforced while public safety is still the highest priority in Whitley County,” Lawson said.
In addition, Lawson said the screening process on incoming inmates has been altered to help avoid the possibility of COVID–19 spreading into the facility.
All new intakes are housed in the detox cells for three to five days. While in those cells, inmates’ temperatures are checked every four hours.
From there, if no indication of the virus is present, the inmate is moved to a male or female– designated cells, where an additional 14 days of monitoring is conducted.
Lawson said inmates are still able to speak with family and friends through Skype and www.inmatesales.com. However, the jail lobby, which includes video terminals that allow visits, is closed to the public.