Coronavirus cases in Delaware County jail prompt officials to expedite release of inmates

Jim Melwert
March 27, 2020 - 11:43 am

EAGLEVILLE, Pa. (KYW Newsradio) — Efforts are underway to reduce the population at Delaware County’s jail to protect both inmates and staff. 

The move has been weeks in the making, but Delaware County Councilmember Kevin Madden, who is the chairman of the county Jail Oversight Board, reassured that they’re not “just throwing the doors open and letting people out.”

“These are measures that we’ve been working on in partnership with the District Attorney’s Office and the courts to really be out ahead of this thing,” he said.

A worker at George W. Hill Correctional Facility was infected with COVID-19 back on March 5. He still went to work the next day because he did not yet show symptoms. Since then, at least nine employees and three inmates have tested positive for coronavirus.

“It was an unfortunate hand we were dealt in having this person test positive, but I think we’ve been pretty aggressive and proactive about mitigating the danger,” Madden added.

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District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said public safety is still the county’s primary concern, and they will continue to lock up anyone who could be a threat to society. 

However, they’re working closely with the courts to expedite the release of inmates who don’t need to be behind bars, like people who are close to getting out or whose time served is equal to the likely punishment.

“If we can get people out of the county jail to reduce that population in a responsible way, so that we’re not putting public safety at risk, we’re taking every step we can to do that,” he explained.

Lowering the population not only means less people in the prison, but it also gives them space to quarantine those who had contact.

Both Madden and Stollsteimer said this is something they’ve been working on for a while, and the timeframe was just moved up due to the pandemic. But, they noted it’s good public policy to cut inmate housing costs, then reinvest the savings into treatment programs, like addiction, to try to reduce the number of re-offenders.

This comes as county officials announced two more deaths of county residents Friday. 

The latest two are a 70-year-old woman from Ridley Township and a 63-year-old man from Middletown Township.

That brings the total of coronavirus related deaths in the county to four.