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Mass. Sheriff Concerned About COVID-19 In Jail When Court Activity Resumes

The Hampshire County jail hasn’t reported any covid-19 cases since May, but the sheriff said he’s concerned about possible new cases when normal court activity resumes.

Sheriff Patrick Cahillane said the inmate population has gone down by almost half since the pandemic began. That’s because some were released while awaiting trial, and fewer people have been sentenced since trial activity scaled back.

But he expects trials to start again in the fall, which means more traffic and more potential exposure to the virus.

And while a sheriff in Florida made headlines for refusing to allow mask-wearing in jail, Cahillane is relying on masks to keep his jail safe. So far, he said it’s been challenging to convince inmates to wear masks whenever they’re out of their cell.

"It's frustrating," he said. "Let's face it, we're human beings. And change comes hard to us as human beings."

Cahillane said it can also be tough to convince staff, on their own time, to avoid large crowds and behavior that could expose them to COVID-19 and introduce the virus into the jail.

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.
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