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Sheriff sends 12 prisoners home after Covid outbreak in Gratiot County jail

By Ralph Echtinaw

Gratiot County Sheriff Mike Morris transferred about 12 of the county’s prisoners to house arrest last month after a Covid-19 outbreak in the jail affected “a few” prisoners and some guards.

The released prisoners are confined to their homes and on electronic tethers to keep them there.

“It was not bad, but one case in the jail is too many,” Morris said via email. “We had a few in the jail, (but) at the current time we are Covid free.”

One deputy assigned to the jail is still home sick with the virus.

Morris said the jail has taken precautions against Covid transmission for the last 20 months. Prisoners are tested on arrival. Masks are required in the jail. Prisoners are tested again when going to the general population.  

Morris said the outbreak took place over a “10-day period towards the mid to end of November.”

Morris asked the county’s judges to grant early release to house arrest for some inmates. His requests were approved. In each case, the sentencing judge had to sign off on the release of each prisoner.

How were the prisoners selected for release to home confinement?

“We picked them by the nature of the crime,” Morris said, “i.e. no assaultive ones. Also taken into consideration was the length of time left on their stay. If they had a matter of days then we put them on house arrest. None, to my knowledge, will be coming back.”

Morris has no idea how the virus got into the jail population. “With some many people working here and inmates coming and going it is hard to say,” he said.

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