COLORADO SPRINGS — Officials with El Paso County Sheriff's Office are reassuring those concerned about jail inmates during this pandemic that there are safety measures in place to help protect them.
"With the imminent threat of the COVID-19 pandemic our commitment has not wavered," the release states. "Over the course of the last several weeks we have put in place some very aggressive measures to minimize the risk of exposure to your loved ones and our staff members."
The safety of inmates has been a concern for families and loved ones and the sheriff's office is implementing "very restrictive housing measures" and more. The inmates have had a reduction in time spent making phone calls, visits, using showers, and interaction with other inmates, according to the sheriff's office.
These changes are temporary and families and loved ones are encouraged to remind them these safety measures are in effect only during this time to help protect the inmates.
"Encourage them to be patient. Reassure them that they have a lot of control about whether they get sick," the sheriff's office said. They said there are cleaning supplies available to the inmates to keep living spaces and common areas clean.
This release comes one day after the sheriff's office announced one of their deputies died due to COVID-19. Deputy Jeff Hopkins passed Wednesday at 41 years old after serving with the EPCSO since 2001.
"We appreciate all of the sacrifices of every first responder... and each person performing a critical service," said Susan Wheelan, director of the El Paso County Public Health Department. "We all honor their sacrifice and dedication. While others have passed away from this disease, given the nature of his service, Deputy Hopkins is the first face and name of the casualties within our community."
Discussions of possibly releasing some inmates early came up at a Board of County Commissioners meeting on March 26.
The ACLU has requested the state release certain inmates early to help limit the spread of the virus and as News5 has reported Pueblo County is already taking some steps to do so. While El Paso County is looking at options, it's not being recommended right now.
"What we don't want to do is go through any risk to the public and if we're within a couple of days of being able to release someone and there's no victims' rights issues or other safety-related issues, we want to look at those each individually." Sheriff Bill Elder said.
The sheriff's office says it does not have the authority to release inmates and that inmates can only be released with a court order.
Click here for the latest update on the number of cases, the age, gender and location of presumptive positive, indeterminate and confirmed cases from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.