Douglas County Jail visitations continue; would-be inmate sent away at intake to self-quarantine

photo by: Mike Yoder/Journal-World File Photo

The Douglas County Jail is shown in this file photo from Aug. 17, 2012.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office had not yet made any changes to visitation at the jail as of Wednesday afternoon, but one would-be inmate had been released to self-quarantine.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many public facilities around the country have closed to visitors — including Kansas Department of Corrections prisons, according to a March 13 news release from the state secretary of corrections.

However, Jenn Hethcoat, public information officer for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, told the Journal-World via email Wednesday that the agency is assessing the situation daily in collaboration with health authorities, and at this time, the jail has not made any changes to its visitation policies.

Related stories

March 12 Douglas County Sheriff’s Office: Jail can accommodate quarantine, if needed

March 13 Some Douglas County Jail inmates could be released on furloughs if sick or at risk of COVID-19

A Douglas County District Court administrative order last week gave the sheriff the authority to grant some inmates 14-day furloughs from the jail if they were at risk or showed symptoms of COVID-19.

Nationwide, jails and prisons are hearing concerns from inmates who are in poor health. As the Associated Press reported Wednesday, “Stepped-up cleanings and a temporary halt to visitations at many lockups across the country in the midst of the crisis can’t make up for the fact that ventilation behind bars is often poor, inmates sleep in close quarters and share a small number of bathrooms.”

On Tuesday, Hethcoat said no one had presented any concerns yet. By Wednesday afternoon, though, she said one person had been transported to the jail on a felony theft warrant, and “during his intake assessment it was discovered that he had direct ties to a location that is a high risk area for COVID-19,” she said. That person was granted a 14-day furlough to self-quarantine.

Hethcoat has also said that the jail’s design allows for medical quarantine, should that become necessary. Asked about the potential concerns the public may have if inmates are being released on furlough, Hethcoat said violent offenders will be quarantined in the correctional facility.

As of weekly stats disseminated Friday, Douglas County had 25 inmates housed in out-of-county facilities. Hethcoat said those inmates could also be granted furloughs under the sheriff’s authority if there is concern for their health. No other jails have asked to send inmates back to Douglas County for health concerns, she said.

More coverage: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As the pandemic continues, the Journal-World will be making coverage of COVID-19 available outside of the paywall on

Find all coverage of city, county and state responses to the virus at:

What to do if you think you may have COVID-19

Patients who have symptoms — difficulty breathing, cough and fever — should stay home, immediately isolate themselves from others and call their health care providers. Patients should never show up unannounced at a medical office or hospital. Instead, they should call ahead to explain their symptoms and give health care workers the ability to minimize the risk to others.

If patients do not have health care providers, they may call the Lawrence Douglas-County health department’s coronavirus line, 785-856-4343.

For updated information on the outbreak, Kansas residents can email or call 866-534-3463 (866-KDHEINF), which is staffed 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

More information can be found through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s website or the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health website.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact public safety reporter Mackenzie Clark: