SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — Some are calling out Hays County Jail officials for not following COVID-19 safety measures, even in the middle of an outbreak.
Wednesday, KXAN spoke with the sheriff after 51 inmates and staff tested positive over the last couple weeks.
Bridgette Alexis-Johnson’s brother, Michael, is one of them.
“The first thing he said to me when I answered the phone was that he had tested positive for COVID,” Alexis-Johnson says.
That was on Sunday.
“It’s very scary. There are people that are dying from this and we don’t get to determine who does who survives it,” she says.
Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler said these procedures are being implemented to stop the spread of the virus:
- All inmates are given masks upon arrival in the jail. If they refuse to take a mask or refuse to wear it, the staff can not make them do so. If they lose theirs, one will be replaced within a reasonable time
- Random temperature checks are done daily. If an inmate shows an elevated temperature or are exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, they will be offered a test.
- A cleaning cart is delivered daily to the inmates so that they can clean the living quarters if they wish
- Twice a day, corrections officers enter the housing units and clean the common areas of the unit
- Once a week, all inmates are removed from their housing units and correction officers sterilize the entire unit, common areas and individual living areas
Cutler also told KXAN in an email Thursday that all infected inmates are being quarantined.
But when Alexis-Johnson talked to her brother Tuesday, he said that wasn’t the case.
“I then asked if they were separated. You know, if the people that were that he was sharing a cell block with at that time were all positive — and had they removed them from the individuals who had not tested positive. He said no. They are housed together,” she says.
Michael also told his sister he didn’t receive his first mask until a little over a week ago.
Sheriff Cutler told KXAN in an email today masks were being given out “consistently” toward the end of March.
Brandy Ray spent a night in jail last week for public intoxication.
“They’re not made to make us comfortable, of course, and I understand that. However, we’re in a pandemic where people are sick are getting sicker and sicker,” she says.
The mom of two says she was never offered a mask — even when going before a judge later that morning.
“The guard had a mask. But none of the three women– myself and two other girls, were not,” she says. “We weren’t offered a mask, we were wearing a mask, and we were standing like two inches apart.”
Alexis-Johnson believes if jail officials had been taking proper precautions, her brother would not have contracted COVID-19.
Michael has been awaiting trial for about a year on family violence charges.
“I would like for a lot of people to really understand that a lot of these people have not been convicted of anything, yet,” Alex-Johnson says. “They’re awaiting their court date so that that can be determined by a judge.”
His family — who can’t afford the $40,000 bail — wants him out until then.
“If he needs an ankle monitor, whatever you need to do to monitor him while he’s released awaiting a court date. We just want to get him home and get him some medical attention,” his sister says.
KXAN asked the Hays County Sheriff why he can’t require inmates to wear masks.
He said if he tried to make it mandatory, it would be too hard to enforce.
It is unclear whether Governor Greg Abbott’s new executive order mandating masks applies to correctional facilities.
KXAN also asked the Hays County District Attorney — again — if there were plans to release inmates from jail.
He said he did not have time to provide an interview or statement Thursday.