Middlesex Sheriff’s Office COVID-19 Response – Update #20

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BILLERICA, Mass. - A 15 percent reduction in population at the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction – driven by proactive steps taken by the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office and public safety partners – has allowed us to temporarily close multiple dormitory-style housing units.

These efforts were in place weeks before last Friday’s ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in the case filed by the Committee for Public Counsel Services (SJC-12926) seeking to have individuals released from custody.

“In consultation with Dr. Alysse Wurcel – the infectious disease specialist who has been advising us since late February – we decided to temporarily close three dorms including our Housing Unit for Military Veterans,” said Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian. “The movement of individuals from these units to areas where we can further space individuals out, allows us to enhance social distancing practices.”

The reduction in population over the past four weeks provided us with the flexibility to move individuals on Wednesday. The decline is a direct result of actions taken by the MSO, the district attorney, local law enforcement and the courts, in combination with the completion of sentences. Among the most significant efforts undertaken by the MSO was a drastic increase in the volume of video and phone conferences facilitated from the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction, allowing cases – including bail reviews – to move forward while courts have largely been closed to the public. Between March 18 and April 9, over 400 such conferences were held.

“Ensuring the health and well-being of our employees and those in our custody are our top priorities,” said Sheriff Koutoujian. “Over the past six weeks we have implemented a series of steps designed to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 including enhancing medical screening for newly committed individuals, requiring staff to wear protective masks for the duration of their shifts and making masks available to any incarcerated individual who requests one. Wednesday’s move was the next step in that effort.”

The MSO has also implemented the following steps:

Symptomatic staff are being told to remain at home and contact their primary care physician (PCP). Any symptomatic staff must be cleared by their medical provider and provide documentation to Human Resources before returning to work.

Provided thermometers, germicidal cloths and gloves for staff to conduct self-temperature checks. Staff have the ability to check their temperatures on their way in, during the shift and before they return home.

Doubled the number of individuals placed in Electronic Monitoring Program (EMP) since March 20. Ninety (90) percent of the new individuals from the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction are age 55+. Also added since March 20, was one female from MCI-Framingham.

Eighty (80) pretrial individuals identified by the MSO, the DA and defense attorneys had their bail reduced after review by the DA and courts as of this past Monday. Forty-eight (48) of those individuals had already been confirmed to have been released from the Middlesex Jail & House of Correction as of Monday. The total number released does not include women held at MCI-Framingham or men held in other jurisdictions.

Offering four free phone calls of up to 20 minutes each for incarcerated individuals every week beginning on March 13.

Designated our Family Resource and Outreach Coordinator Lili Bonilla as the central point of contact for families. Lili can be reached at 978-932-3517 or by emailing [email protected]. Individuals or families with urgent concerns outside of normal business hours should contact 978-667-1711 ext. 0.
Vigorously enhanced cleaning of facilities and availability of cleaning products.

Encouraging individuals inside the facility to continue to follow CDC recommended steps for preventing the spread of the virus. This includes frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

For information regarding the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office COVID-19 response, please visit our dedicated webpage middlesexsheriff.org/covid19.