SF sheriff suspends jail visits to prevent coronavirus exposure

San Francisco is shutting off visitor access to its jails to prevent an outbreak of coronavirus among inmates and staff, Sheriff Paul Miyamoto announced Friday.

“As San Francisco and California move toward more restrictive measures to reduce the risk of everyone’s exposure, we must follow suit to protect everyone’s health and safety under our care,” Miyamoto said in a statement.

Jail visits will be suspended beginning at 5 p.m. Friday.

The decision came after the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation halted normal visiting hours at its prisons across California earlier this week.

Miyamoto consulted with Dr. Lisa Pratt, the medical director of Jail Health Services, on the decision.

“The COVID-19 public health emergency is constantly evolving,” Pratt said in a statement. “We will reassess our operations each day and monitor recommendations from local and state health officials as cases decline in the community.”

Inmates will still be allowed to have “non-contact access” to legal counsel at the jails, and Miyamoto is considering instituting video visits for inmates, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in County Jail thus far.

The decision follows Public Defender Manohar Raju urging Miyamoto take extra measures to protect inmates in jail, and also to consider releasing eligible inmates to minimize possible exposure to COVID-19.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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