Coronavirus restricts jail bookings in Grays Harbor County

Grays Harbor County is working to keep COVID-19 from spreading in the jail-- even if that means they won't be putting as many people behind bars.

GRAYS HARBOR COUNTY, Wash. — Grays Harbor County Sheriff Rick Scott said he’s taking every step he can think of to keep COVID-19 out of Grays Harbor County Jail.

They’ve stocked up on hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and disinfecting sprays. They’re screening every single inmate for coronavirus symptoms.

Some criminals aren’t even going to jail.

Content Continues Below

"There’s certain property crimes that we might’ve booked you for a month ago that we’re not accepting today,” said Scott.

The booking restrictions started March 4 because of jail overpopulation.

"It was designed to house 82 people, not 182 people,” said Scott.

The new rules cut the inmate count by about 25-percent, from 173 to 130.

Now, coronavirus is the top concern, but reactions to the move are mixed.

“In my 50 years, I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this,” said Denise Jacobus, Aberdeen resident. “Considering everything, I think that’s probably a good idea."

"If you do the crime you should have to do the time and not, oh, there’s a virus going around, you can walk, I think that’s wrong,” said Michael Emery, Hoquiam resident.

Suspects who aren’t arrested will still be investigated and charged. Deputies won’t keep anyone on the street who’s violent or a threat.

“It’s always a case by case basis. We look at the individual, we look at what they’re arrested for but, more importantly, what was their criminal history?” said Scott.

At the Hoquiam City Jail, they’re not restricting bookings, but they’re taking steps to stop the spread.

“What we do is we take their temperatures, and we gauge it, and if it’s over 100 degrees then we would turn them away basically just to get them out of here and not to contaminate them in the small cells,” said Israel Fernandez of the Hoquiam Police Department.

The Aberdeen Police Department announced Thursday they are temporarily suspending jail visitation because of the coronavirus. Inmates in the Aberdeen City Jail can send and receive U.S. mail, and they also have the ability to make phone calls to family and loved ones.