Nashville’s new downtown jail has opened earlier than its original May date and in a different capacity than anticipated. Sheriff Daron Hall says the facility is operating as a “medical ward” for the jail system in order to meet isolation needs.
The downtown detention facility currently houses 269 people, 79 of which have some form of COVID-19 restriction. In the coming weeks, more people will be moved to the facility, which has a capacity of 756.
Hall is anticipating an increase in COVID-19 cases in Davidson County jails. He says that the dormitory-style housing in which many incarcerated people live greatly increases the risk of exposure.
“We do have many isolation units, given the fact that we have a new facility opening, but that has limits and we’re going to work over the next week or so to exhaust all of that. Hopefully we’ll have plenty to do that with.”
Of the 1,003 inmates in Nashville’s jails, 119 are on a medical restriction due to COVID-19. These restrictions comprise those who have been “extremely exposed” to the disease, those who are symptomatic and awaiting results, or those who have tested positive.
To date, 11 inmates and seven DCSO employees have tested positive. Inmates are tested once they begin showing symptoms.
“Our worry is making sure we have enough space to isolate those cases that are positive and the amount of testing I believe is adequate for where we are today,” Hall said.
The city began reducing jail populations last month to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Since March 13, the inmate population has decreased by 18 percent.