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Health and Medicine

Protestors Demand Jackson County Jail Follow COVID-19 Guidelines

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Sydney Dauphinais/JPR
Activists gather outside of the Jackson County Jail, Saturday evening, March 6.

Activists gathered on Saturday night at the Jackson County Jail in response to a recent COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.

Late last month, the Jackson County Sheriff's Office reported that ten people incarcerated in the County Jail had tested positive for COVID-19.

On Saturday evening, around 30 protestors marched around the Jackson County jail with noisemakers and signs, calling for the release of detainees at risk of contracting the virus.

Leona Evans was one of the demonstrators who helped organize the event. She says that although the group wanted to make a statement to the jail staff, they mostly wanted to see if the people inside could hear their support.

“We wanted to come and show some support and really make as much noise as possible so that we could penetrate that wall and see if people could hear us and let them know that people care," said Evans. "I think that people feel really isolated and alone and like the world has forgotten about them.”

In response to the group’s chanting, several people inside could be seen waving and pressing their faces against cell windows.

The activists want all people awaiting trial to be released, and that cash-bail be suspended for the remainder of the pandemic. They also asked that everyone inside the jail be provided with adequate safety equipment, like face masks.

Activists Jayden Becker and Derek DeForest had been detained at the jail following a previous demonstration. They say when they asked jail staff for masks, their requests were ignored or laughed at.

An outbreak of COVID-19 among jail staff, including Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler, was reported in early January. The Sheriff’s office has not provided any updates on contact tracing efforts to either outbreak.

Banners and signs at the events bore slogans such as, "Superspreader Sheriff Sickler" and "Community Care, Not Jails."

Evans says that, in addition to supporting people in custody, they also wanted to make their demands clear to the Sheriff, who oversees the facility.

“People inside can’t socially distance," says Evans. "They're not able to. It’s spreading in jails and prisons like wildfire and folks inside can’t go anywhere. And there’s medically vulnerable people in there and people who are within a couple months of release. This is a death sentence.”

Sheriff Sickler said that the Sheriff's Office was aware of the demonstration and that they respect First Amendment rights. He did not respond to inquiries regarding contact tracing in the jail.