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Jackson County locking up fewer people to slow Omicron’s spread behind bars

The rapidly-spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19 is forcing changes across the coast, and that includes jails and prisons.
Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 8:23 AM CST
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PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - COVID made a lot of business re-evaluate if that meeting could be an email. Now some in law enforcement are taking a similar approach, asking themselves, “Is this an arrest? Or just a citation?”

The rapidly-spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19 is forcing changes across the coast, and that includes jails and prisons.

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell told WLOX News his deputies are making an effort to avoid bringing people to jail, when possible.

“Some of the precautions that we have taken are to evaluate an arrest,” Sheriff Ezell explained. “You know, unless it’s something serious, can we write a citation? Can we give them a warning? Can we try to use some discretion so that we don’t have an overabundance of people incarcerated. We also want to be very mindful of people and their rights.”

Sheriff Ezell said from the start of the pandemic until January 2021 he had no cases of COVID-19 at the Jackson County Adult Detention Center. Fast forward a year later with the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreading, and that’s no longer the case. Luckily, he says there have been no major outbreaks.

The department is also working to slow the spread by requiring mandatory temperature checks for officers and prisoners when an inmate is brought in. The full-time medical staff and sanitation practices have also been a huge help.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office runs the Adult Detention Center in Pascagoula.

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