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The Latest on COVID-19 in Nashville's Jails and Tennessee's Prisons

The coronavirus that has killed at least 94 Tennesseans and infected thousands more has inevitably made its way into at least some of the state's prisons and jails. Here are the latest developments.

Nashville judges deny request for mass release of vulnerable inmates:
The city's Criminal Court and General Sessions judges have rejected an emergency petition from Metro Public Defender Martesha Johnson that sought the release of large categories of particularly vulnerable inmates from Nashville's jails. Latest Nashville News You can read the court orders from the Criminal Court judges here and the General Sessions judges here. 

The public defender's request highlighted these categories of inmates:

People with heightened risk factors as identified by the Centers for Disease Control, such as age or underlying medical conditions
People in jail for nonviolent misdemeanors
People held on nonviolent felonies who can be put on probation
People awaiting trial for nonviolent crimes who cannot afford bail
People in jail for probation or parole violations
People who are within 60 days of their release date
Although Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk's office has worked with public defenders on agreements for the early release of dozens of inmates, he filed a motion in opposition to the broader request. 

In a statement released Thursday night, the public defender's office expressed disappointment but said the office would continue to work with the DA's office to secure the release of individual inmates. 

Two inmates and two staffers have tested positive 
The sheriff's office has confirmed that two inmates at Maximum Correctional Center on the DCSO's southeast campus have tested positive for COVID-19. Those two inmates — and four others who are showing symptoms — are in medical isolation, Press Release Distribution Service while approximately 55 more inmates have been quarantined as a precaution, according to the sheriff's office. In addition, two staffers have tested positive and are isolating at home.

At a court hearing Thursday on the public defender's aforementioned request, Sheriff Daron Hall said that 81 percent of the people in Nashville's jail are awaiting trial. In other words, they have not been convicted of a crime but are likely only in jail because they can't afford bail. 

At least one prisoner and seven TDOC staffers have tested positive
COVID-19 has now been found at four Tennessee prisons. The Tennessee Department of Correction has only confirmed one prisoner testing positive, an inmate at Turney Center Industrial Complex. A total of seven staffers at three other prisons — including the CoreCivic-operated South Central Correctional Center — have tested positive. The department announced yesterday that the Tennessee Department of Health will offer testing for COVID-19 to all employees at the Northwest Correctional Complex in Tiptonville and the Bledsoe County Correctional Complex in Pikeville.  

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