• Last modified 747 days ago (July 23, 2020)


Cops avoid sending people to infected jail

Staff writer

After an employee of the jail complex tested positive for COVID-19, Marion County jail once again is jailing only suspects whom law enforcement officers think must be jailed by state law requirements.

But the jail and health officials apparently have not reached out to those who may have been processed through the jail while an employee at the complex was contagious.

The jail has gone back to a system it used starting in April when the virus became active in the county, undersheriff David Huntley said.

“We’ve shut down bringing in unnecessary arrests,” Huntley said. “We’re back down to taking only the ones who need to come in.”

Huntley said he no idea how long it will last.

The jail was locked down after the diagnosis, but visitation was permitted because inmates and visitors talk on a phone instead of through a hole in the glass, jailer Jim Philpott said.

“We weren’t doing fingerprints except for criminal charges,” Philpott said.

People who need fingerprints taken for an application or a concealed carry permit will probably be able to make appointments next week, he said.

Marion resident Derrick Ratzloff, jailed July 5 on suspicion of driving under the influence, thinks the county hasn’t done enough to protect those arrested.

“They took me inside, and I touched everything everybody else touched,” Ratzloff said.

He says he was not contacted after a jail complex employee tested positive for the virus four days later.

“It’s kind of scary,” he said. “I’m not the happiest about it. I could have gotten it right there.”

While being booked, searched, photographed, and fingerprinted, he was within six feet of jail employees longer than 10 minutes. That would make him a close contact of someone who had the virus, he said.

“You’d think it would be like a procedure to call and say, hey, there are sick people in here and you were in here,” he said.

District judge Michael Powers has not been involved in discussions of limiting those incarcerated.

“There haven’t been any communications of that nature,” Powers said. “Back in April and March, there was discussion that it doesn’t make sense to be packing a whole lot of people in there.”

Hillsboro assistant police chief Jessey Hiebert said he hadn’t had anyone who needed to be taken to jail since the positive test.

Marion police chief Clinton Jeffrey said he was instructed by the sheriff’s office not to arrest unless there was no other avenue to handle the situation.

“If there are any avenues of handling that, that’s what they’d like us to do,” he said.

Domestic violence, felonies, driving under the influence, and a few other offenses are mandatory arrests, he said.

If someone is found to be driving while his or her license is suspended, a citation can be issued and arrangements made for someone else to drive, Jeffrey said.

Last modified July 23, 2020