Jails and prisons are sort of a microcosm of society when it comes to monitoring the pandemic.  Many jails are hotspots for COVID-19.   Last June, Michigan was one of nine states to receive a D- for their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic behind bars, according to the report from the Prison Policy Initiative.  But Calhoun County, knock on wood, has been relatively unscathed so far.  Calhoun County Sheriff Steve Hinkley took over the job, which includes management of the jail, for retired Sheriff Matt Saxton in early March.  He started the new job, just in time to deal with a pandemic that has ravaged many county jails and prisons across the state.

Sheriff  Hinkley reported this week that they’ve tested 1037 inmates at the Calhoun County Jail, and they’ve had just 11 positive tests. All eleven of those people were stopped from coming into the facility. Sheriff Hinkley says all eleven were moved to the full-time medical unit.  All have recovered and were placed into the general population.  Currently, there are no COVID-19 cases in the jail.

When people come to the Calhoun County Justice Center, one of three temperature and facial recognition screening machines checks them and transmits the information into the control center.  Sheriff Hinkley says staff will know immediately if a person should be admitted into the facility or not.  “It also keeps data records of everyone entering and their screening procedure status.”

Temperature Screening Machine-Calhoun County Jail
Temperature Screening Machine-Calhoun County Jail

Sheriff Hinkley said he and his staff feel strongly that they need to continue with inmate programs within the facility.  “We have slowed some of these programs and some have been temporarily suspended, but we have continued with many and still managed to maintain these (COVID-19) numbers.”

Those programs include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Ladder to Recovery
  • Substance abuse and treatment
  • Shepherds Embrace program
  • Start Program
  • Cognitive Education
  • GED
  • Michigan Works
  • Spanish to English

Sheriff Hinkley says they continue to change policies and procedures at the jail and use the information provided by the Health Department and others to do the best job possible.

Sheriff Hinkley added that only one deputy has tested positive, but there was no community spread from that person, and they have recovered and are back to work.

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