Hays County judges screen inmates for possible jail release amid COVID-19 crisis

Investigations

Hays County jail cell (KXAN Photo)

HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Hays County district judges and criminal justice officials are screening jail inmates with the intention of releasing low-risk arrestees to reduce the jail population and lessen the risk of spreading COVID-19, according to a new release Tuesday.

“The less time spent inside the closely-confined jail by anyone, arrestees or law enforcement employees, the less likely is the chance that any such person might contract and spread COVID-19 outside the jail,” according to the statement signed by five Hays County district judges. “Such a measure serves to protect the public health, safety and welfare of the broadest segment of our Hays County population and the entire community.”

Each person that may be released will be screened and “possibly tested” for COVID-19. People released from jail will still be subject to conditions.

Hays County Adult Community Supervision Department employees are screening the jail rosters, identifying arrestees that pose a “lesser degree of risk to our population and the community,” and district judges are reviewing those people for possible release, according to the county statement.

A Hays County spokesperson confirmed Tuesday the county had nine confirmed cases of the virus. It is not clear how many people Hays County officials plan to release, or have already been released.

KXAN has received several emails from viewers concerned about the virus spreading through Central Texas jails. You can learn more about measure jails are taking against the virus here.

The announcement comes as COVID-19, a viral disease responsible for a global pandemic, has caused widespread business closures and orders for Texans in several cities to shelter in place. You can read more about the disease and KXAN’s coverage here.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that thousands of inmates were being released by local government throughout the country.

On Monday, the Houston Chronicle reported Harris County judges had requested the release of about 60 people with nonviolent charges.

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