Lubbock County working to protect inmate health, rights during pandemic

Updated: Apr. 9, 2020 at 6:47 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - The Lubbock County Defense Lawyer’s Association and staff at the Lubbock County Detention Center are working together to keep inmates safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel very strongly about everybody’s right in this country, to a fair trial, to representation,” said Kim Brown, President of the Lubbock County Defense Lawyer’s Association. “The first and biggest concern is for our clients, particularly the ones who are incarcerated right now."

Though social distancing requirements have made it harder to balance procedural steps within the judicial system, Brown says she and her colleagues are adapting.

“We are still having essential proceedings with regards to arraignments, magistrates court, setting bonds. Those sort of things are taking place, a lot of them virtually, but they are taking place, exactly when they’re supposed to take place, ” Brown said.

She says that while her concern for her clients is still very real, she says she’s pleased with they way Sheriff Kelly Rowe is handling the situation at the Lubbock County Detention Center.

“I think everybody is trying to work together to look out for everybody else. That’s certainly been a concern of ours, coming up to the last few days, but I feel like those issues are being addressed.”

“Correctional facilities, which are obviously looked at very critically during this time frame, are one of the best in the business at being prepared to deal with this,” Sheriff Rowe said.

Rowe says since the announcement of the first case of COVID-19 in Lubbock, precautionary measures were put in place in order to protect inmates and staff. Those precautions include taking the temperature of any person who steps foot into or out of the facility.

"This is nothing new in the detention business. We deal with infectious diseases every day,” Rowe said.

Rowe says in addition to the medical personnel already in place, the Lubbock County Detention Center also employs a full-time infectious disease specialist. Should an inmate present with symptoms of the virus, the jail is prepared.

"We’ve got a full infirmary medical center for that, including specialized and specially-designed cells – we refer to as negative pressure air. Anybody that’s in there, their air flow is not mixing back into the entire facility’s air flow.”

Sheriff Rowe says in addition to looking out for the health of staff and inmates, he’s also looking out for their legal rights as well.

“We stopped all of the visitor activity, stopped all of the volunteer activity, for the most part, and still allowed those individuals that had the need for direct access into the facility to continue again with court proceedings and those types of things, to continue to allow them access, but with a screening process before entering the facility.”

Something Brown says she is grateful for, "We have to continue to give these people their constitutional rights – and that’s of the utmost importance to everybody. "

But, Brown says above all else, she wants to convey one specific message, “I do know that there are concerned family members out there and we just want them to know that collectively as a defense bar, we’re still here and we’re still fighting.”

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