Eight inmates and five employees at the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office have now tested positive for COVID-19.
The inmates have been placed in medical isolation, while the staffers are self-treating at home. A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office says 49 inmates who may have come into contact with the virus are also under quarantine.
The first DCSO employee to test positive earlier this month spent a few days in the hospital, the sheriff’s office says, but has since recovered and returned to work.
Sheriff Daron Hall has been working to reduce the jail population since mid-March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. On March 13, his office halted in-person visits and volunteer programs in the jails and required non-essential employees to work from home.
Several days later, Hall expanded the jail’s pre-trial release criteria and sent home inmates participating in the work release program.
The sheriff has also been working with Chief Public Defender Martesha Johnson to release medically vulnerable inmates and low-level offenders with less than a year left on their sentence.
At a court hearing last week, Hall testified on behalf of an emergency motion urging the courts to order a mass release of inmates, before an outbreak within the jails becomes difficult to manage.
“I’ve been trying to get our numbers down to where, when these cases occur, we can move them around,” Hall said.
The sheriff added that it wasn’t his job to decide who should be released.
“I’m asking for that number to be reduced in whatever ways can be decided, because we will manage what you give us,” he said. “But I need everyone to understand that number needs to be, in my mind, right at [or] below 1,000 people.”
The motion was ultimately denied.
For now, the district attorney’s office is reviewing requests for release on a case-by-case basis. But about 200 people have already been freed since the first case of the coronavirus was reported in Tennessee in March.