Police chief discusses COVID-19 precautions for Kodiak’s jail

Kodiak’s jail has changed some of its procedures and added precautionary measures to protect inmates and staff from potentially contracting COVID-19. Following Alaska Department of Corrections guidelines, the jail suspended in-person visits last month.

Police Chief Tim Putney said staff are monitoring temperatures for inmates who show symptoms or say they are feeling ill, and they’re spacing people out within the facility as much as possible.

“We’ve expanded our questioning during the booking process to include COVID-19 questions related to health and travel and so forth,” Putney said. “Depending on the charges — let’s just say this is a mandatory arrest under the law, they have to stay in jail, they have to go to court — we do have a cell that’s prepared, to offer as much protection to the rest of the facility as possible.”

Putney said staff has access to masks, gloves and eye protection. Tyvek suits — hooded, coverall-like protective suits — are also available if necessary, he said.

On Monday, news broke that four new cases of COVID-19 in Juneau were all staff members at the capital’s Lemon Creek Correctional Center. According to the Alaska Department of Corrections, there are currently no known cases of COVID-19 among inmates at the facility. All staff and inmates have been issued cloth face masks. State epidemiologists are working with the department to trace close contacts among the facility’s inmates and staff.

Law enforcement in Kodiak has worked to reduce contact with the public, suspending foot patrols and traffic stops for minor infractions. Putney says there’s been a small decrease in the number of arrests since the new policies went into place, and as of last week, no noticeable increase in crime.

“Kodiak always seems to do better in these kinds of circumstances, with the unknown, with these emergencies, than some of the other communities around the country. So at this point in time, it’s business as usual. We’re not seeing an increase in any of those crimes.”

Alaska State Trooper Daniel Blizzard while there might not be an uptick in calls for police assistance, law enforcement is keeping an eye out for an increase in assault or domestic violence calls as people are cooped up for a longer period of time.

Adelyn Baxter with KTOO in Juneau contributed to this report.

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