BILLINGS, Mont. - Chief Justice Mike McGrath is asking city and county judges to consider releasing as many inmates from jails as possible to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In a letter written by McGrath on Friday, he asked judges to review jail rosters and to release as many inmates as possible without bond.
Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder says this will help with over crowding in the jails, but leaves uncertainty for the future. Linder says "people that will be released, could potentially come back into the facility not knowing if they're infected with the virus." Sheriff Linder expects most of the inmates that will be released will be drug offenders, as hey says they could resort back to this lifestyle.
However, there is a COVID-19 protocol in effect at the Yellowstone County Detention Facility that any inmate or attorney has to go through. This protocol includes screening before entering the facility, which includes taking a temperature and making sure that person has not been out of state or traveling to an area where they may have contracted the disease. Other protocol includes intensive cleaning within the jail and following jail specific Unified Health Command and CDC guidelines.
In terms of responding to calls, Sheriff Linder assures that the department will continue to carry out their duty of serving the community given the circumstances.
“We’re public servants, we get a call for service, we might change up a little bit how we handle it. You know, using gloves, using masks, we provided all that stuff for them and just using their good common sense," says Linder.
In addition to asking judges to release non-violent inmates, Chief Justice McGrath is also asking judges to delay civil and bench trials while encouraging courts to conduct as much business via video as possible.