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County jail sees prisoner population slide

The number of inmates being held at the Canadian County Detention Center might be at the lowest level since the building was constructed.
As of Monday, there were 134 inmates being held at the jail. There also was one inmate being held in Dewey County and four inmates who were being held in other facilities while awaiting trial.
There were only three people booked into the jail over the weekend. Normally, that number is significantly higher.
Sheriff Chris West said the number of prisoners is the lowest it has been since 2013 when he began.
At that time, the county had about 90 or so prisoners housed in the local facility, but more than 100 were being held elsewhere.
Not everything is related to COVID-19, however. West pointed out that some of the reduction is related to a change in law that raised the threshold on certain crimes before they become felonies.
“We’re just not moving people. No one in the United States is,” he said.
West also pointed out that the number of calls for service is down, including burglaries and theft reports.
Most of those crimes occur during the day when people are at work, especially in rural areas.
Right now, many people are staying home, which limits the number of crime being committed.
“Our calls for service are down. People are at home, bars are closed and people aren’t spending money,” he said.
So far, he said, no one has tested positive for the virus in the county jail. Each prisoner is checked when they arrive.
Also, West has halted inmate visitation for the moment. That is a way to reduce the virus’ threat.
“We are paying attention,” West said. “We’ve told our people that if they are sick, they should not come to work.”
So far, none of West’s employees have missed work because of illness.
Meanwhile, officials with the Yukon Police Department said they also are changing the way they handle crimes.
Maj. John Brown, a spokesperson for the department, said most minor crimes, such as possession, larceny and shoplifting, are being cited and given a court date.
Serious crimes will still result in a trip to jail.
Sunday, at least one person was taken into custody after an assault and battery complaint.
Brown said those who commit crimes are still facing charges; they are just being handled differently.
“What we are trying to do is reduce exposure and contact between our officers and the public that we normally have,” he said.
Brown did say that the protocols for officers have changed.
An example of that is if a person is stopped for a traffic violation, the officer may ask the person to read their driver’s license information instead of taking the license.
Or, an officer going to a home may ask that the person come outside instead of taking a report inside. This, Brown said, allows the officer to avoid being in a confined area.
“We have to make sure we put the necessary steps in place to keep ourselves safe. If one of our officers goes down, it could have an effect on the other people they work with,” Brown aid.
So far, none of Yukon’s officers have tested positive.
Yukon has 46
officers.
“We’re still dealing with people. We’re just using more discretion of when to give a ticket and a court date versus going to jail,” Brown said.

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