Alexandria, VA

The Alexandria Jail has limited visitation to inmates in an effort to keep out the coronavirus outbreak.

Last week, Sheriff Dana Lawhorne implemented measures to curtail outside visits, including from attorneys, he told ALXnow.

“We suspended volunteers and we’re supplementing their involvement with staff-led programs. This past Friday, I issued an order to restrict attorney visits,” Lawhorne said. “They have to do that through the telephone visitation system. We make exceptions for attorneys who need to see their clients. We pretty much have restricted any outside visitors.”

Lawhorne also eased phone restrictions for inmates.

“Our first duty is to protect the inmates,” Lawhorne said. “We’re just trying to eliminate the possibility of the virus, because if it gets in the jail we’ll be in a big predicament. We already are.”

The sheriff said that his office has been planning for the virus for a month, and that most staff are essential personnel, and are still coming into work. Staff and inmates have “tripled” cleaning efforts, he said.

The Sheriff’s Office is also conducting a thorough intake screening process, Lawhorne said.

“If somebody is diagnosed with the coronavirus and they happen to be get arrested for some reason, our screening processes for them are much different. If that person gets committed to the jail then we have measures in place to contain that,” he said.

Lawhorne said inmates are not on lockdown, and are moving about freely within their confines.

Additionally, he has indicated that staff are ready and willing to provide Meals on Wheels or other community-related work if volunteers are unavailable.

“Inmates are still moving around their housing units, using the phone, watching television or participating in other activities,” Lawhorne said. “My philosophy is that it takes people to help people, and this is a time for everybody to come together — within six feet, that is.”

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