Purgatory suspends on-site visitation, enacts other COVID-19 prevention measures

Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 7, 2015 | File photo by Leanna Bergeron, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — As measures are taken nationally and locally to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday it has enacted its own preventative measures at the Purgatory Correctional Facility. This includes the suspension of on-site visitation.

Klair Mendenhall ministering to an inmate during a barrier session at Purgatory Correctional Facility, Hurricane, Utah, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Joe Slobig, St. George News

In a message posted on the Sheriff’s Office website, Sheriff Cory Pulsipher said there currently were no cases of COVID-19 at the county jail and that a number of precautions had already been taken and will be taking place in the near-future.

“Last week, PCF established a Disease Committee specifically to oversee and manage the execution of our four-phase pandemic response plan,” Pulsipher wrote.

The jail has suspended all on-site visitation, which includes all legal, personal, and religious visits. All visitors are encouraged to use the messaging, telephone and/or video visitation features available on the jail’s GTL communication system until the on-site visits are reinstated.

Off-site inmate work crews have also been suspended.

The intake screening process has been adjusted with COVID-19 related medical questions and information regarding the virus and sanitation practices are being given to guards and inmates. An inmate sanitation crew has been formed.

An internal system tracking illness and possible COVID-19 symptoms among staff and inmates has also been implemented.

The facility’s disease committee will meet weekly to review and discuss national, state and county exposure data regarding the virus as well as symptomatic tracking data within the jail.

Work is also underway to increase the jail’s supply of over-the-counter cold and flu medications, as well as personal protective equipment and environmental protection supplies.

Additional measures taking effect Monday:

Inmates serving partial sentences – like those sentenced to serve time on the weekend – will not be accepted into the jail.

“Due to the frequency that inmates serving partial commitments come and go from the facility, they create an unreasonable and unnecessary risk of exposure for the facility,” Pulsipher wrote. “In addition, the housing area normally reserved for these inmates will be prepped for use as an isolation/quarantine area, should one be deemed necessary.”

First dorm that will house 60 inmates at Purgatory Correctional Facility’s Community Corrections Center, Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 15, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Other local law agencies will be asked “to use extreme discretion” when considering who to take to the jail. Instead, the Sheriff’s Office is asking these agencies to “cite and release” if that is a viable option.

“This will be done in an effort to avoid having to place any formal restrictions on admission to the facility, should the risk of COVID-19 virus in the facility continue to increase,” the sheriff wrote.

“On behalf of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, I would like to thank all of our community partners in advance for their assistance in this matter. We realize that these operational adjustments will directly impact some of your day-to-day duties.”

The Purgatory Correction Facility, which was built in the mid-1990s, has the capacity to house up to 500 inmates.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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