In what he attributes to the excellent and meticulous work of the correctional staff, St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said not one of the 429 inmates in Killona’s Nelson Coleman Correctional Center have coronavirus.
“The goal is to protect all inmates and correctional officers in the facility from the virus … we are keenly aware that with inmates living in close proximity, every precaution must be taken to prevent the introduction of the virus into the facility,” Champagne said. “Our staff is outstanding and have been very proactive and aggressive with ideas to keep our facility secure.”
Champagne said even prior to the pandemic, precautions were taken in the booking and screening process to prevent the introduction of communicable diseases into the facility. He added that the sheriff’s office has intensified all in-take procedures at the facility due to coronavirus concerns.
“It is not a stretch for me to say that with the movement restrictions and screenings in place, inmates in our facility are more insulated from catching the virus than a member of the general public at this time,” he said.
With very limited exceptions, transfers of inmates from one prison to another were suspended weeks ago by sheriffs, the Department of Corrections and the United States Marshall Service. Champagne said nearly all state-wide court appearances have been postponed. If needed, appearances are done by video conferencing, which has been the standard procedure in St. Charles Parish for years. The work-release program has been indefinitely suspended as well.
If an in-court appearance by an inmate is required by a judge, Champagne said that inmate is treated as a newly booked inmate upon their return to the facility. Any inmate leaving the facility for court is required to wear a mask the entire time.
“The only new inmates coming into our correctional facility at this time will be those arrested for serious misdemeanors and felonies,” Champagne said. “Deputies have been granted the discretion to issue written summonses for very minor non-violent offenses and other things such as unpaid traffic tickets.”
Champagne said the intake process for anyone arrested has been ramped up significantly. When an arrestee is brought into the correctional center, a nurse from the medical staff relocates to the covered, fenced-in area outside of the main facility for a preliminary medical screening. All medical personnel and correctional officers wear personal protective equipment, and the arrestee is also provided with a mask to wear during intake.
Arrestees are questioned about recent travel, symptoms and contact with any sick people, and medical staff takes their temperature, measures their oxygen levels, and monitors their pulse.
If anything appears to be abnormal or of concern, Champagne said the medical director is contacted. If the staff, after consultation with the medical director, has any concerns about the arrestee possibly having coronavirus, the arrestee is not allowed inside the facility and is taken to an area hospital for evaluation and treatment.
If everything is normal, Champagne said the arrestee is admitted into only the booking area of the facility for the time being. Correctional deputies in the booking area, as well as the arrestee, continue to wear PPE in the booking area throughout the booking process.
After booking, arrestees are held in the booking area cells for up to 72 hours or until they post bail set by the court. After 72-hours, arrestees are transferred to a F-3 pod, which is separate from the general population. Champagne said F-3 is in-effect a secondary holding facility, with inmates closely monitored for any signs of illness. Inmates who are symptom-free after 14 days are eligible to be moved into a general population area.
All correctional center employees are medically screened upon entry to the facility for each of their shifts, Champagne said, adding family and attorney visitation is limited to video conferencing at the jail.
“Traffic in and out of the facility has been restricted to only what is necessary,” he said. “Further precautions will be added if our medical staff professionals require such.”