WASHINGTON COUNTY, OR (KPTV) – As the COVID-19 pandemic forces major changes to our daily lives, jails are also making big changes in order to keep inmates safe, including releasing some low-level offenders.

In the past 24 hours, the Washington County Jail says it has released 121 inmates to ensure that every inmate has their own jail cell. 

“We wanted to free up the one housing unit that has dormitory type sleeping where those in custody are sleeping kind of near each other and they don’t have their own cell,” said Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office says the releases were necessary to make eliminate any chances of COVID-19 potentially spreading through the jail.

Courts were able to help by ordering the release of several inmates. Some were also able to bail out or be moved to another facility. But some inmates had to be released at the discretion of the sheriff’s office.

“It’s got to be low public safety risk and those inmates who have a possibly a compromised immune system are the priority,” Garrett said.

Garrett says he is not concerned about a safety risk with the release of these inmates because they are such low-level offenders.

The sheriff’s office is also trying to reduce the number of people who get booked into jail.

“We are limiting those who get booked into our jail to A and B felonies, those who are under arrest for domestic violence crimes, sex crimes or a violent person crime,” said Garrett.

That means for crimes like DUII or theft, those criminals may be given a citation and released back home with a court date. The jail says it may also look into more home monitoring systems in the future.

Other measures are being taken at the jail to keep inmates safe. Deputies are only serving meals inside of cells, inmate programs have been cancelled for the time being and people can only be out of their cells in groups no larger than 20 people.

It’s an unprecedented time in our country and deputies have no way of knowing how long this crisis could last.

“Things change on a daily basis, so we’re just taking it a day at a time,” Garrett said.

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