Lori Vallow Daybell remains in jail. Experts are worried about a coronavirus outbreak in U.S. facilities
COVID-19 could ‘wreck havoc’ on jails, experts say
Lori Vallow Daybell currently sits in jail up in Madison County, Idaho, on a $1 million bond. She is facing charges of desertion and nonsupport. Though she’s worked with bail bondsmen to secure bail, she’s yet to post bail.
Vallow’s case is drawing attention across the country. But as she remains in jail, the coronavirus outbreak continues to grow and could have the potential to “wreak havoc” on detention facilities, experts told NBC News.
Experts are concerned over the coronavirus spreading to jails, prisons
- The U.S. has about 5,000 detention facilities, which includes jails and prisons (there are actually more jails than colleges, too). No cases have been reported in any facility so far, according to multiple reports.
- But experts warn that jails and prison systems could see cases of the coronavirus, which could have a devastating impact, according to NBC News.
- Dr. Homer Venters, the former chief medical officer of the New York City jail system, told NBC News: “We’re in a very perilous stage right now. It’s just a matter of time before we see cases inside jails and prisons.”
- Venters said he visits jails and prisons across the U.S. as a consultant on health services. He said most lack basic tools to battle germs and illness.
- He said: “Let’s say there are three sinks for 40 people. Rarely do I ever see most of them working, plus soap and paper towels. Some of the most basic elements of infection control that we take for granted, like your ability to wash your hands and dry them, remain out of reach for many people in detention.”
What is Madison County jail in Idaho doing?
- Vallow is currently held in the Madison County jail in Rexburg, Idaho, on charges of nonsupport and desertion.
- Madison County Lieutenant Jared Willmore told me in a phone interview Friday that the Madison County jail is “taking all the precautionary steps recommended by the World Health Organization and all the local government leaders recommendations, our hospital recommendations, as far as prevention goes.”
- Willmore said: “We’re taking all preventative measures that we can take so far.”
- When asked if the county jail would move inmates if there was a coronavirus outbreak, Willmore said: “As far as moving inmates, from what I’ve read, moving people is not the best thing to do as far as a quarantine. We would definitely follow that recommendation.”
The biggest concern:
- Maria Morris, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, told NBC News that coronavirus could hurt jails and inmates really quickly.
- Morris said “Once it gets in, if there’s not a well-thought-out plan to address it, it seems very likely that it’ll wreak havoc on facilities quite quickly.”
- Groups have called for the release of low-risk inmates to limit the threat of a spread, according to The Guardian. Outbreaks in prisons and jails could spread outside of those areas to visitors, correctional officers and lawyers, among others.
- Josiah Rich, a Brown University epidemiologist, told The Guardian that it might make sense to release those on cash bail.
- He said: “They are not there because we need to keep society safe, they are there because they are too poor to afford bail. If they were wealthy, they would have the means. So, do we think we should keep them in there in the face of this epidemic?“
The Deseret News reached out to the Madison County jail for more information on how the coronavirus spread could impact Lori Vallow Daybell and the jail itself.