Tompkins County Sheriff Derik Osborne announced on March 15 that visits to inmates in the Tompkins County Jail were suspended. The next day, all Administrative Offices of the Sheriff were closed down in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Tompkins County Jail currently houses 41 inmates, none of whom have shown symptoms of the virus, according to the sheriff. Additionally, the jail increased cleaning efforts to further prevent the spread.
Inmates at the jail have been granted a limited number of free phone calls to make up for the ban on visitors. The sheriff’s office did not reply to a request for the specific number of phone calls by the time of publication.
In order to prevent the spread from any new inmates to current inmates, newcomers will be “secured separately from the general population until such time that they can be examined by medical personnel,” according to the announcement.
Separation and containment are especially important to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in jails because inmates are not allowed to possess any products that contain alcohol, including hand sanitizer, which is commonly used to prevent the spread of germs.
The announcement was released at 2 p.m. on March 15, around the same time that the New York Daily News reported that a Department of Correction staffer in New York City tested positive for COVID-19. Later that evening, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio additionally ordered visitation bans in New York City jails.
On March 16, all Administrative Offices of the Sheriff were closed until further notice.
Notably, this includes the Civil and Records Division, which handles pistol permits and the serving of several court orders, including divocrce actions and eviction papers. This office’s functions, along with services such as background checks, in-person civil payments and sheriff identifications, have been suspended indefinitely at this time.
The New York State Unified Court System indefinitely suspended eviction proceedings across the state as well.