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Local jails fear COVID-19 has entered facilities as dozens of inmates show symptoms

Local jails are trying to isolate inmates who show symptoms of the novel coronavirus while a local attorney has filed legal action over virus concerns.


As the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, spreads, there is fear the virus has already made its way inside facilities as deputies and jail staff try new measures to stop the spread. 

Twenty-six inmates in Denver’s jail system are showing signs of symptoms while 31 inmates in Jefferson County are also showing signs of COVID-19.

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9Wants to Know has obtained an internal memo from the Denver jail that indicates inmates who are showing symptoms will be isolated in eight-person pods and “encouraged to keep a 6-foot distance from each other as much as possible …” 

Other internal memos say some Denver jail employees will be issued masks but that they will be required to reuse them. 

“The masks can be used multiple times. Only the outside of the mask should be decontaminated, with a Super Sani-Cloth (Purple wipe). A more thorough option for decontamination is to place your mask in a plastic zip lock bag with your name tagged to it,” a Denver jail memo said.

A spokesperson for Denver Health said testing kits are being sent to Denver’s jail for inmates that are showing symptoms, which include coughing, fever and shortness of breath. 

In Jefferson County, a spokesperson said the jail reopened two modules for males and females so inmates showing symptoms can be isolated. 

“Any inmate released who shows signs of COVID is given a mask to wear and advised to seek medical advice,” said Mike Taplin, the public information officer for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. 

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On Wednesday, attorney Jason Flores-Williams filed court papers to try and compel the Colorado Department of Health and Environment to take action inside Denver’s jail. 

“CDPHE’s failure to fulfill its statutory mandate and its failure to enforce its regulations has contributed to a serious and shocking breach of medical safety procedures at the Jail, which increase the risk to every single prisoner and to every single employee at the Jail of contracting Covid-19,” the Flores-Williams complaint said. 

Flores-Williams said Denver’s jail is not doing enough to protect inmates and that it's imperative protections be put into place so the virus doesn’t spread when they are released from custody. 

"At some point the majority of them are going to get out. So regardless of whatever steps we take in attempting to ‘flatten the curve,’ these people are going to get out of jail, creating a public health crisis for the rest of us,” Flores-Williams said. 

A request for CDPE to respond to the complaint went unanswered. 

The city of Denver responded in a statement that said, “The Denver Sheriff Department is working with Denver Health to ensure the health and well-being of the inmates during this pandemic. Inmates who are exhibiting symptoms that could be related to COVID-19 are being isolated and monitored by medical staff.” 



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