Due to coronavirus, Crisco, Clodfelter work to release inmates from jail

Stanly County Sheriff Jeff Crisco has been working with the local officials to offer early releases for non-violent offenders and people charged with misdemeanors as a way to reduce the population to better deal with the growing coronavirus outbreak.

“We’re very fortunate right now,” Crisco said. “Our numbers are down. Between the judges and the district attorney’s office and the defense attorneys, everybody has been working very diligently about getting cases handled in court and trying to get non-violent misdemeanor offense people, get their cases taken care of and getting them out of jail.”

Though Crisco didn’t have any specific numbers for how many inmates have been released, he said the daily population in the jail was 135 on March 26, which is much lower than it’s been in the past. The average daily number of inmates that had been in jail earlier in the year was around 150.

While the court is closed to the public, Stanly County District Attorney Lynn Clodfelter said his office has been working to address pending Superior Court cases and reaching resolutions.

“We’ve been able to focus directly on cases of defendants who are being held in the jail which is helping to reduce jail numbers,” Clodfelter said.

He also said bonds may have been modified for inmates with nonviolent offenses.

Groups of people in close quarters, like those in jail, can be especially vulnerable to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. This is why many jails across the nation have been working to offer early release to certain inmates as a way to alleviate jail populations.

As of Saturday, North Carolina has 4,312 confirmed cases including 80 deaths, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Stanly County has 14 confirmed cases.

The Stanly County Detention Center, which has a health care provider in place seven days a week to screen new patients, has also suspended on-site visitation and the life skills program offered to inmates.

“We’re being as precautious as we can, but unfortunately businesses still carries on for us,” Crisco said.

Crisco and his deputies are trying their best to create as much social distancing as they can, including limiting any unnecessary interactions.

“Things that we can handle over the phone, we’re handling over the phone,” Crisco said.

Crisco said the shift change roll call, where deputies share key information, has been eliminated and communication is largely being conducted by phone or one-on-one out in the field.

State prisons, including the Albemarle Correctional Institution, have taken numerous changes to address coronavirus concerns including suspending visitation and work release programs, reducing movements of inmates with chronic diseases and lessening interactions among inmates from different housing units, according to information from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety website.

No inmate has yet tested positive for the coronavirus at the county jail or Albemarle Correctional Institute.