Sedgwick County jail releases inmates being housed for low-level crimes

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) The Sedgwick County Detention Facility released about 200 inmates to make room for social distancing. All of those released were being held on low-level crimes.

The move comes as the number of coronavirus cases increase across Kansas and the United States.

Sheriff Jeff Easter said the jail is almost always at capacity and inmates interact with each other at a closer distance than six feet. The concern is that could easily help the virus spread.

"We know it's going to happen. There's just no doubt that it's going to happen in here. So we are prepared for it. We have different steps in place, in the plan," said Easter.

District Attorney Marc Bennett wanted it to make it clear that no one believed to be a threat to the community would go free. Those who have been released were in jail for crimes such as traffic offenses.

Some people have argued that inmates are already in a quarantine type of situation and should remain locked up. Bennett said the situation affects more than the inmates.

"People forget, the inmates might be in jail, but they still have to have jailers and the detention deputies; people who work producing the food for the inmates every day. There's lots of people who work in the jail who come and go every day," said the district attorney. There's also new inmates being admitted every night for new crimes committed, new violent crimes. And so, it's not as if we can just lock them in a bubble and hope for the best. There's no such thing as a jail that nobody is coming or going from."

Easter said precautions are being taken to keep the virus from spreading in the jail. On-site visitation was stopped last Tuesday.

"Anybody who enters into this facility, if you have a temperature of 100.4 or higher, we will turn you away from the jail and direct you to go to the doctor," Easter said.