Jail Virus

The Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center on Fort Collier Road in Frederick County is trying to prevent a coronavirus outbreak within its walls.

WINCHESTER — In a delicate balance of protecting public health while preserving public safety, about 60 inmates are being released this week to prevent a coronavirus outbreak at the regional jail.

“We are not giving them get-out-of-jail-free cards,” Judge Brian Madden told Bradley B. Triplett, Department of Probation and Parole District 11 deputy chief probation and parole officer, during an early release hearing in Winchester Circuit Court on Wednesday. “Zero tolerance. Spread the word.”

Because social distancing is nearly impossible in jails and prisons, they can be breeding grounds for diseases and are vulnerable to the COVID-19 coronavirus. The pandemic has killed about 20,500 people worldwide, including nine people in Virginia, through Wednesday afternoon. At New York City’s Rikers Island jail, 21 inmates and 17 employees had been diagnosed with the virus through Saturday, according to The Washington Post.

Staff at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center on Fort Collier Road in Frederick County have been monitoring what other jails are doing and planning on how to deal with COVID-19 since late January. Efforts include designating areas that could serve as quarantine pods and unsuccessfully trying to purchase N95 respiratory masks, which are in short supply.

“We’re trying to minimize any danger,” Capt. Clay Corbin, commander of the jail’s community corrections programs, told Madden. “It takes seven to 14 days before there are any [virus] symptoms. It could be out of control before we could contain it.”

Most of the inmates being released locally are within 60 days of their release date and about 25 are part of the work release program, which is being suspended today. Work release inmates are considered a high risk for contracting the virus because they work outside the jail each day before returning at night. Most work release inmates, who must have nonviolent records to be part of the program, are being released into Home Electronic Monitoring. That involves them wearing ankle monitors with GPS tracking.

The early releases will decrease the jail’s inmate population by about 15%, which has had an average daily population of 635 inmates from 2015 through last year. There were 539 inmates at the jail on Wednesday. The jail also has about 185 staff.

Most of the inmates at hearings on Wednesday had nonviolent records. They included Lisa Ann Grady, who was serving time for a probation violation related to a cocaine possession conviction. Defense attorney Krystal Omps said Grady has been working 12 hours per day, seven days a week at her job. But Grady would lose her job because of the suspension of work release if she remained incarcerated. Omps said Grady was a “model inmate,” but Heather D. Hovermale, Winchester deputy commonwealth’s attorney, objected to Grady’s release, citing a long record of probation violations. Nonetheless, Madden granted the release.

“If you screw up once, you go back in,” Madden told Grady. “And I won’t authorize work release again.”

Corbin said before the hearing that jail staff developed a list of inmates to consider for early release in consultation with Marc Abrams, Winchester commonwealth’s attorney, and Ross Spicer, Frederick County commonwealth’s attorney. However, prosecutors from both offices raised objections to some of the proposed releases.

Kristen G. Zalenski, a county assistant commonwealth’s attorney, told Judge Alexander R. Iden that George Albert Slonaker II, convicted for driving while intoxicated in 2018, was too dangerous to release early. Slonaker, scheduled to be released on May 5, said he had a construction job lined up and was seeking a furlough so he could better provide for his three children who live with his mother.

But Zalenski noted Slonaker had at least four drunken driving convictions since 2008. One involved a death in 2010. Iden said he was committed to efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve, but denied Slonaker’s release. He said he couldn’t live with the possibility of Slonaker driving drunk and killing someone again after being released early.

Corbin said after the hearing that the jail doesn’t have a specific number that they want inmate population to be, but fewer inmates means more space for potential quarantine areas.

“We didn’t have those options with a full house,” Corbin said.

— Contact Evan Goodenow at egoodenow@winchesterstar.com

(14) comments

Scars.revealed_heal6

Hello...where i find myself in all this leaves me most times, voiceless. If you haven't guessed i AM one of the people "partially released" (after thorough inspection and multi-level approval, proof of a safe/stable residence, an ankle monitor with GPS satellite tracking capabilities pinged to outskirts of above mentioned property perimeter, with twice weekly unannounced check-ins & once weekly urine screens administered by correctional officers) after 27months already served in jail and approximately 6months remaining until my sentence ends. "What am I in for?" I'm sure you're curious...a female friend I have known since 10th grade was keeping a pistol for another guy she knew that was already locked up. After heated argument between my friend and her uncle/landlord, along with several other family members and her moments of suffocating depression, she confided in me that she'd made multiple attempts to end her pain either by way of self-mutilation or suicide. She was confiding in me that she was about to wave the white flag again and the firearm wouldn't leave room for failure again. I couldn't in good conscience leave the firearm with her even though I was commuting a felony merely holding the gun because I was already a convicted felon. I believe in my heart that her life and ANY chance that she may have succeeded that night if I'd left the weapon behind made my decision not only justifiable but also worth risking if perception of my decision wasn't agreed upon or I couldn't get the pistol out of my hands safely AND quickly enough. I was later set up and raided by the drug Task Force at a friends home. The coward i asked to come take the gun out of my hands and deliver back to the original owner(he said he knew the actual guy that had left the pistol with her to begin with...and i did not)had been hit with charges of distribution unbeknownst to me, and so had me arrested for possessing a gun i was trying to give away (safely so kids wouldn't find or anything) even after being told exactly why I had the pistol. I honestly feel to this day I made the right decision to care enough to show selfless compassion toward a person that couldn't find worth in herself, hoping she'd see and feel her existences value to me! I tried to stop a young woman from committing suicide and it was felt that was a valid enough reason to humiliate and punish me with intent of allowing a man legitimately guilty of his charges, to walk free. I can understand ignorant fear when persons labeled "prisoner, inmate, convict " are said to be released when you're a model citizen blessed with perfection and never been in trouble. However, to judge ANY person solely from the mistake and consequences rendered to their "fellow" imperfect person...to say that we are undeserving of compassion in moments of extreme uncertainty and potential loss. "Knocking-off" a bank or running "Maw & Paw Kettles pooch through a wood chipper" was never and WILL NEVER be in my disposition! Being incarcerated doesn't instill in every person the desire to commit murder or to become a terrorist! My first "want" upon release was to hug my mother immediately! Had a scare last year believing she had been diagnosed with cancer. Praise God the Father that He hears prayer and His healing is REAL!!! Her cancer vanished and now after tons of prayer that made it possible to get away from the jail and spend time with My Guardian Angel on earth(Mom), before the Lord calls her home for good. Not a single offender being released for this, as far as I am aware, had nothing intended to break the law. EVERY ONE...wanted to spend time with ppl and fam dear to them! I hope this opens your eyes to the 100% fact that NO ONE is perfect and even those that mess up bad enough to lose a portion of their lives they'll never get back, Should NEVER let OUR mistakes define US to ourselves especially but even to those just as flawed as WE THE GUILTY!!!

lori5855

Dont think they should release inmates early. They still can get the coronavirus everyday someone comes into the jail. Releasing inmates early does not keep them from getting the virus. Inmates are safer in jail cause they are closed up there like we are staying in our homes. Those inmates will be back to jail

DaWholeTruth

AS IF new lawless marauders bent upon mayhem won't fill their spaces...….then what? And WHY weren't these criminals remanded to their houses under house arrest as opposed to allowing them to potentially spread this virus without at least a two week quarantine? More foolish, extremist, liberal bologna......despite the state of world affairs, the left has learned, still, nothing.

Bryan.the.Nuri

I see someone didn't bother to read past the headline...

Mr Incredible

Absolutely ridiculous, for so many reasons.

Bryan.the.Nuri

Really? how so, o anonymous one?

This isn't an amnesty, something authoritarians like you will hate. This is a compassionate release to prevent outbreak. This is not a blanket release, cases are being evaluated, as was shown in the article you failed to read. Jails and prisons have often been centers of outbreaks, as the close proximity and lack of immediate medical treatment create a breeding ground for infection. This only affects 15% of the inmates, not the entire building.

So what are you really angry about? Is this why you hide your odious comments behind anonymity?

Mr Incredible

Says the one who ran for school board when he can't even see his own kid. Those convicts did the crime, they can do the time. Releasing them into the public could well be a risk to public health. But perhaps they can come stay with you?

Bryan.the.Nuri

Pity your personal convictions are only present with the shield of your own anonymity. I bet you're much more cowardly when you have to own your own words, huh?

DaWholeTruth

Just curious: Where was the criminals' "compassion" when they were breaking our rule of law and causing pain, suffering, and injury to the general public? Can't do the time? Don't do the crime.

Blondie

You've got that right.

Bryan.the.Nuri

So, despite countless court decisions, laws, and even out own Bill of Rights, criminals deserve less compassionate treatment? Even non-violent offenders?

Doc Samson

BOOM! Truth bomb!

ShawFamily

Please. Jails and prisons are also centers of inside criminal behaviors, too. Sure inmates can get sick. Inmates can also assault or murder -- and they can BE assaulted or murdered. Jails and prisons are not perfect facillities, but they are housing less-than-perfect citizens. With your logic, the next move might be letting inmates out because they may be assaulted...

This action is more about keeping guards safe from a major outbreak. We'll see how many released inmates are back in 'the system' before long. It won't be a news story, but an investigative journalist could track the statistics.

Poor choice.

Bryan.the.Nuri

Did we read the same article?

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