Sheriff: Jail staff protecting against coronavirus

The Ward County Sheriff’s Department is taking precautions to protect jail inmates, staff and visitors to the courthouse from the new coronavirus, Ward County Sheriff Bob Roed said Wednesday.

If a new inmate is confined to the jail and shows any symptoms of the illness, he or she will be placed in isolation, said Roed.

Personnel have been doing a lot of cleaning and sanitize surfaces frequently and most are wearing masks at work.

One Minot police officer has tested positive for the new coronavirus so far and has been placed in quarantine. Roed said staff at the sheriff’s office and jail have been tested for the coronavirus and everyone has tested negative so far.

Roed said work release programs for jail inmates have been suspended. Other regular programs such as church services at the jail have also been suspended. Different pods at the jail have been kept separate.

Roed said no one has been released from the jail thus far solely because of the coronavirus. According to an affidavit filed with the district court this week by Ward County prosecutor Christopher Nelson arguing against a bond reduction for a defendant, there are currently about 120 inmates at the jail and the jail has the capacity for 300. Nelson asserted that the jail is the safest place at present for the defendant to avoid getting coronavirus because active steps are being taken to limit the possibility of infection.

Jail visits have been conducted by video only for some time. Roed said people who want to visit an inmate also have the option of signing up for visits using their home computer.

If an inmate who has been charged with a violent offense such as a sexual offense or domestic violence or reckless endangerment or terrorizing is released on bond, his or her victim is entitled to be notified under the state constitution. Roed said victims are provided information about the state’s Marsy’s Law that enshrines victim rights in the state constitution. Victims can also register for the North Dakota Statewide Automated Victim Information and Notification Program. That will update them when a defendant has been released from jail or is transferred, on parole or probation, or has been re-arrested, along with other pertinent information. More information about the program is available on the state attorney general’s website.

State offices have restricted access by order of the governor, but regular court hearings have remained open, said Roed. However, he said visits to the courthouse by the general public appear to be way down. One day this week only 12 people passed through courthouse security. People who have business with the clerk of court or state’s attorney can make an appointment and they will be escorted to the office when they arrive at the courthouse. Otherwise, those offices are closed.


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