Calhoun County Sheriff Steve Hinkley says he's confident that all reasonable and effective measures are being taken to keep inmates safe.

Sheriff Hinkley has confirmed a recent surge of positive COVID-19 cases at the county jail which is also used to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees.

The sheriff confirmed that 12 inmates at the jail tested positive for COVID-19 between February 28 and March 1. Additionally, 8 corrections staff were also found to be COVID-19 positive since February 20. He says that all proper recommended mitigation is being followed and that some staff will be back on the job shortly.

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Litigation between the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ICE has been ongoing since the beginning of the pandemic. In a federal lawsuit filed in April 2020, the ACLU demanded the release of about 130 detainees being held at the facility as well as the release of others held at 3 other Michigan facilities. The county, however, is not involved with the lawsuits.

We have handled this crisis carefully, responsibly, and have worked diligently to minimize the presence of COVID-19 within the facility. ~Calhoun County Sheriff Steve Hinkley

Sheriff Hinkley says the jail is following all cleaning protocols recommended for congregate housing by the CDC, as well as all federal, state, and local guidance to stop the spread of COVID-19 within the county's facilities. All staff goes through a screening process before they enter the facility as well as undergo bi-weekly COVID-19 testing.

Calhoun County Board Chairman Steve Frisbie said on the WBCK Morning Show that County Corporate Council Jim Dyer, County Administrator Kelli Scott, Sheriff Steve Hinkley, and others are addressing issues brought up by the ACLU with a Federal Judge in Detroit.  “The problem is it's been a one-sided report that makes it look like we don't treat people very well,” said Frisbie.  “And the reality is we've gotten some commendations from even the ACLU inspector saying that we do a good job in almost every area.  They had a couple of questions and they took those questions and made it look like we don’t do our jobs and it’s completely the opposite. We do a great job down at the jail and Sheriff Hinckley and his staff are making sure that people are taken care of and cared for well.  It's very disappointing that people have gone to the courts to try to attack us.  If they would just come and ask for the information they're usually able to get it.”

A new inmate or detainee undergoes a 14-day quarantine and is tested for the virus at the beginning and end of the quarantine. A negative test is required before being moved to the general housing area.

Sheriff Hinkley pointed out that the Calhoun County Correctional Facility has consistently passed multiple, annual inspections by state and federal agencies.

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