By Gerard F. Russell, Telegram & Gazette Staff, March 14, 2020
A Correction Officer sanitizes the hallway after transporting a new inmate at the Worcester County House of Correction in West Boylston, Massachusetts on Wednesday.
Licensed practical nurse Colleen Grinnell asks a series of questions and checks the temperature of an incoming inmate at the Worcester County House of Correction in West Boylston, Massachusetts on Wednesday.
WEST BOYLSTON – Coronavirus concerns have resulted in the suspension of visits to the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction.
David H. Tuttle, superintendent of the facility, said Thursday that no visitors, volunteers or non-employees of any kind will be allowed inside the buildings that houses about 810 inmates and 600 employees.
“We will allow lawyers to visit clients in a non-contact area. If they need a face-to-face (meeting) they will first need a screening if we allow that,” Tuttle said.
All community service work has also been halted.
The jail has traditionally had inmates working in area communities clearing highways of trash and litter.
Instead, some of the inmates on those crews will shift their focus to cleaning inside the facility. Those crews will wipe doors and handles.
Tuttle noted that no coronavirus cases have been detected inside the facility.
“Any introduction (of the virus) will come from the outside,” he said.
The concern at the jail is anyone coming to the jail who may be infected, or who could have come in contact with an infected person.
“What we are doing is screening before they enter the (facility).”
The jail has purchased chlorine-based cleaner that is used in hospitals and schools. Personnel are also disinfecting vans that transport inmates to and from court appearances.
“We have started aggressively cleaning all areas of the jail and focusing on the receiving area wherever new arrivals are coming,” he said.
The ban on visitors will last two weeks, and then officials will re-evaluate, Tuttle said.
Unlike some businesses, recreation venues and schools, Tuttle pointed out that the jail cannot shut down.
“One of the unique positions that folks don’t realize is we cannot close because of the nature of our business. We are trying to address all of these issues to keep staff and inmates safe and secure,” he said.
The superintendent said the public will still be allowed to pick up inmates who are being released, but must remain in the parking lot and not enter the building.
In addition, posting bail will be allowed. However the person paying the bail should stay in their vehicle until the release process is complete. Property check, pickup and clothing exchanges are canceled, but deliveries will continue.
Similar measures are being taken at the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction. To compensate for the lack of visitors, inmates will be offered two free 15-minute calls per week. Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian is exploring the possibility of expanding calling opportunities and offering other means of communication, such as video visitation and electronic messaging.