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Sheriff: Jail, House of Correction inching back to normalcy

  • Franklin County Sheriff Christopher Donelan in his office at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction. Staff File Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Life is beginning to look a bit more typical at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction as the state begins a phased-in return to operations amid the pandemic. Staff File Photo/ANDY CASTILLO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/12/2020 4:57:49 PM
Modified: 6/12/2020 4:57:34 PM

GREENFIELD — Life is beginning to look a bit more typical at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction as the state begins a phased-in return to operations amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Sheriff Christopher Donelan said his staff kept the novel coronavirus out of the 160 Elm St. facility during the predicted Massachusetts surge in mid- to late April, and the house of correction had registered no cases among its incarcerated population when Gov. Charlie Baker started reopening the state last month.

Donelan said roughly 100 inmates have been in the facility since March 13, when he temporarily stopped visits, restricted access to the jail and sent home all non-essential personnel in an effort to prevent anyone from bringing in the virus.

As part of the reopening process, Donelan said that non-essential employees are back to work. Education and addiction counseling services have also resumed.

“It feels good to have some sense of normalcy back,” Donelan said Thursday. “It’s been a long haul.”

Visitors are still prohibited at this time. Donelan said that measure will be reevaluated on July 1.

The jail is now accepting new arrests, whereas since March 13 they had been taken to the Greenfield Police Department for processing and to teleconference with a judge for arraignment. The sheriff explained anyone brought in by police is tested for COVID-19 and, if positive, is placed in medical isolation for 14 days. He said this scenario has occurred twice.

“As the police and courts begin to return to regular operations, we are already seeing an uptick in new arrests and other activities,” Donelan said in a statement. “We will continue to be careful and vigilant because undoubtedly sick people will be coming here.”

He said the jail will continue with its current safety plan until there is a COVID-19 vaccine.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies, as well as food, hand sanitizer and cleaning products, were stocked up in the jail’s warehouse in late January and early February, according to Donelan.

“We are being vigilant with repeated cleaning all around the facility, and hand sanitizer for both employees and our incarcerated population,” he said.

The sheriff paid kudos to his staff members for their dedication and selflessness in the face of a pandemic.

“I’m incredibly proud of these guys and women. They came to work every day,” he said, adding that their commitment risked their own health and that of their family members.

Donelan said jail staff members have been practicing social distancing to thwart the spread of the virus. He said employees and inmates have been diligent about wearing face masks.

One jail officer, assigned to the transportation unit, tested positive for COVID-19 while using vacation days about two months ago, and immediately began recuperating at home. He safely returned to work a few weeks ago. Donelan said the officer had not been in the housing units and had no direct contact with inmates.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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