Virus locks down community corrections center

Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

A Dubois County work release participant has tested positive for COVID-19.

As a result, the person and participants inside the Dubois County Community Corrections Center who have been in close contact with the person are now being quarantined in the building.

“There has been a participant at the center that has tested positive,” Circuit Judge Nathan Verkamp, president of the Dubois County Community Corrections Advisory Board, confirmed this morning. “That individual is asymptomatic, but was in close contact at his place of employment.”

The individual was tested through the employer, Verkamp said. Corrections officials learned Tuesday afternoon that the test came back positive.

Once that was discovered, the participants in the work release center were placed in quarantine and the center was immediately locked down from other participants entering, Verkamp explained. The center had already locked down from the public entering weeks ago.

“We’ve got that individual isolated from everybody else,” Verkamp said. “That individual is not in the dormitory with all the other participants that are there.”

An Indiana State Department of Health Strike Team will come to the center on Thursday to test everyone at the center. “They were called yesterday, and they’re going to be here tomorrow,” Verkamp said. “I was hoping that would be a little quicker. But with everything going on in the state, there’s only so many of those folks as well. We’re going to test everybody, test all our employees, to ensure that we don’t propagate this anymore into the community.”

Verkamp said that at the moment, the quarantine is set to last for two weeks.

“We want to do this right, but we don’t want to keep those folks there any longer than we have to,” he said. They need to be out working and doing their programming. But we need to do this in a smart way, to ensure everybody’s safety. So until we have all the information [from the state] that we need, the answer’s yes, a 14-day quarantine.”

The facility had already reduced the number of participants staying at the facility after county officials enacted the local disaster declaration on March 17, and closed county facilities to the public. Some participants were moved to home detention.

“We tried to reduce our numbers the best we could,” Verkamp said. “The prosecutor’s office and work release went through the list and moved anyone that they felt would be safe to be on home detention during the pandemic, because they were low risk or medium risk.”

Typically the number of participants staying at the center would be in the 90s; through the changes, the number has been reduced to the 30s.

“We were trying to maintain that level, so that we could distance the people within the facilities and the dormitories, just as a precaution,” Verkamp said.

A collaborative team of people in the criminal justice system, health officials and the county emergency management agency worked together to put a plan in place for keeping participants and the staff safe.

“We were trying to reduce our numbers at the work release so there would be less traffic and less chance of this,” Verkamp said. “But now we’ve had that positive. So we’ve implemented some safety precautions.”

Information is being gathered to determine what next steps to take.

“There’s just a lot of moving parts,” Verkamp said. “We’ve got everybody locked down in quarantine; we’re getting everybody tested. And then we can make some decisions, as to if we can safely move people or transition them out of the facility to home detention with GPS, if they’re negative. Or if we can move people around and further reduce our numbers there. We just don’t know yet.”




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