Criminal Justice and Community Corrections Response to the COVID-19
Current Program COVID-19 Status
Current Quarantines for Exposures: 2 Dayrooms; Windom and Oxford
Current Isolations for Illness: 2 Clients
The continued health and safety of our staff, program clients, their families and the public is our highest priority.
Mesa County Criminal Justice and Community Corrections as well as its many programs understand there are concerns for clients, their families and the public that are caused by the COVID-19 outbreak in Colorado and our Grand Junction community. We have been in regular contact with the Mesa County Health Department and the Colorado Department of Public Safety as well as many Community Corrections agencies throughout Colorado for guidance on how our department should be handling program operations.
During the Fall of each year we update our department pandemic response plan, which encompasses a great deal of items that are critical when a pandemic occurs and helps us focus on critical programs and staff resources while balancing public safety.
Beginning in mid-March, the Criminal Justice and Community Corrections Program made the following temporary changes:
The Criminal Justice Services Department (CJSD) implemented their Pandemic Response Plan that included ensuring critical supplies are available, providing education to both employees and program clients, and implementing “wipe down” cleaning crews. Our program nurse provided updated reports on client high-risk medical risks and has been certified to administer COVID-19 testing.
As additional information was distributed and COVID-19 risks increased, facility access became restricted and discontinued on site client visitation. CJSD Campus buildings have signage posted restricting access to visitors and the public. Client educational and treatment groups were limited in size and social distancing was encouraged whenever possible. The Program established facility sick bay rooms for future client use. Client intakes to the program were limited on a case-by-case basis and clients would continue to be screened for the flu or COVID-19.
CJSD Staff received Essential workers designations as the Governor announced “stay at home” guidelines. Clients with essential employment jobs were required to work and client passes were restricted to essential business. Client emergency furlough assessments were updated for future screening. The Program Employment Specialist contacted client employers to appraise them of current client restrictions and conditions. Whenever possible we want our clients to continue to work as long as the business is essential and COVID-19 prevention practices and Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines are in place.
The Program Director attended client community meetings with all clients in the facility and addressed the new restrictions, social distancing guidelines, and program changes. Client intakes and outpatient treatment programs were postponed. The Management staff began to review client emergency furlough assessments first for high-risk medical needs clients for potential furlough from the program. By providing program furloughs, we allow for additional social distancing, less crowded conditions and make available bedrooms for sick bay, quarantine or isolation reasons.
The program now provides a daytime recreation center for clients to attend in small groups each day. Additional client phone access allows for family calls. Free phone cards were distributed so that clients and families can stay in touch. The Program Director received approval to waive at least one month of client room and board costs. Unemployed clients received assistance in filing unemployment claims.
By late March, some client furloughs for release were approved. Client passes into the community were discontinued except for essential employment, critical personal items or medical appointments. Clients and CJSD staff received additional education on social distancing. Counseling staff are making themselves available to clients on an as needed.
By early April, one client appeared to have symptoms similar to the CODIV-19 and was provided an isolated room. Those that may have been exposed to him were temporarily quarantined. The Program notified the Mesa County Health Department and provided additional personal protection equipment (PPE) to both employees and clients accessing a quarantined area.
By mid-May, Mesa County has begun to reopen in phases. CJSD implemented a Post Pandemic Plan. The Community Corrections Board completed an audit of our practices in alignment with CDC guidelines. The Program is phasing treatment classes back into programming, with social distancing in place and group sizes limited to 10. Clients began returning to work at newly opened businesses and unemployment numbers are beginning to drop. Passes were gradually reinstated and clients were awarded additional earned time for conduct during the pandemic stay at home orders. Screening for new intakes continue for symptoms and those coming in from the community prior to intake. The Program Director has continued to waive client room and board costs through May.
By early June, client employment continues to rise and most clients who are eligible to work are doing so. Additional hygiene and sanitation practices continue as well as access to the daytime recreational center. Capacity remains at a reduced level to allow for continued social distancing and isolation space. Furloughed clients are evaluated for placement and some are scheduled to return to residential placement. Others are progressing forward in the program to the non-residential phase.
From July through September client access to the community continued to increase in accordance with the Mesa County Health Departments reopening levels and allowances through the Protect your Neighbor program. Information and symptom screening continued for both clients and staff. Capacity remains at a reduced level and the isolation space continued to be free as no COVID-19 cases were reported. In house treatment and educational classes and contracted services resumed.
On the night of October 14, CJSD was notified that a residential client tested positive for COVID-19. Isolation building was staffed and the individual was placed in isolation. A second client was placed in isolation on October 15, after he exhibited symptoms of COVID-19. His test came back positive for COVID-19 on October 20, 2020.
Two dayrooms, Windom and Oxford with an additional 63 individuals, were placed on quarantine status. Symptom monitoring continues in these dayrooms. Additional hygiene and PPE has been offered to clients and staff. Recreational equipment was provided to the clients in the quarantine areas. Quarantine is currently expected to last until October 29, 2020 in the Windom Dayroom and through October 31, 2020 in the Oxford Dayroom.
Updated information will be posted to our website periodically as conditions evolve. Operating and living in a residential facility during a crisis is challenging to employees, clients and their families. We continue to make updates to our practices with guidance from the Mesa County Health Department and the Colorado State Department of Public Safety, in order to balance health concerns and community safety. We appreciate everyone’s cooperation during this time.