Jail To Maintain Current Inmates
Sheriff Reducing Arrests to Violent Offenses
March 25, 2020
The Valley County Detention Center will not release any current inmates, according to Valley County Sheriff Tom Boyer. The decision comes from Justice of the Peace Christina Hillman and follows a Montana Supreme Court guidance signed by Chief Justice Mike McGrath on March 20 to review prison rosters and release nonviolent offenders without bond.
The memo cited concerns that the risk of transmitting COVID-19, “not only to prisoners within the correctional facilities but staff and defense attorneys as well,” warranted the request. The justices hope that the order will significantly reduce the jail population and limit exposure and risk from the viruses inside the confines of prison populations.
According to the Sheriff, the county will not be releasing any of the current 27 inmates at the county jail until their time is up. He did say that he had communicated with law enforcement agencies that use the jail and all have agreed to reduce arrests to violent offenses like partner, family-member assault or higher. Those who are arrested will also be screened for risk of having the virus by detention center staff before entering. That guidance was enacted last week and the jail’s population has fallen from a consistent high-30s to the current 27.
In addition to limiting arrests, the Sheriff said the office was taking steps to limit contact with the public and reduce the risk of exposure to deputies. The Sheriff did say that they will be making stops for egregious traffic violations and they will be answering calls for service from the public while taking steps to follow CDC guidelines. Boyer does not anticipate having a number of deputies off from the virus at the same time due to the measures the office is taking and the remote nature of the work in Valley County.
The Sheriff has shut down visitation at the detention center but he stressed that inmates can still visit through video streaming services at the jail, can utilize telephones and mail is continuing. “So, people are not cut off from the outside world,” said Boyer.