KOB Web Staff
Updated: April 04, 2020 09:01 PM
Created: April 02, 2020 04:25 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —The Bernalillo County jail is on lockdown while 80 people, including inmates and staff, wait to get tested for COVID-19.
County officials said that means inmates will only be allowed out of their cells one at a time to use the phone or take a shower.
“It is in some ways too late because we know there's probably been spread of that virus,” said Lalita Moskowitz, a staff attorney with the ACLU in New Mexico.
On Thursday, the county said 77 inmates and 14 employees were exposed to an inmate that tested positive for the virus.
Four of those inmates are quarantined because of close contact to that inmate or because they are experiencing symptoms related to the coronavirus.
"I think it's a difficult situation,” said county spokesperson Tia Bland. “I think that MDC is taking its guidance from the Department of Health and also looking at guidelines and protocols that are provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and they're doing their best to cooperate with the Department of Health and do what needs to be done."
The jail has already released more than 50 inmates to help prevent spreading the disease.
But the ACLU says they’d like the county to consider releasing other non-serious offenders that have less than six months remaining on their sentence.
"Release is the safest way, the best way to address as many as possible,” said Moskowitz.
“Certainly, yes, quarantines for people who can't be released for whatever reason but it's simply insufficient and there won't be availability of quarantines for enough people,” she added.
The detention center said they have put the 73 inmates exposed to the coronavirus into two separate housing units. However, officials said it will take a while before they get tested.
“Well the Department of Health started their testing today so it’s going to take a while to test 80 inmates and 17 employees.”
The ACLU also questioned how the coronavirus would impact MDC’s staffing.
Bland told KOB 4, "I'm not aware of a problem with staffing right now. Also, when you're in lockdown status, you need fewer staff to manage the facility because there's a lot less movement. So I think we're OK on staffing."
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