The Rock County Jail this week is taking early steps toward returning to normal and is accepting more inmates than it was earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jail Capt. Kimberly Litsheim said Wednesday the jail has been “very fortunate” not to have inmates who have tested positive.

The jail is conducting temperature checks on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and she said they have been testing inmates who show signs or symptoms.

Jails and prisons have been some of the most vulnerable places in the nation to coronavirus outbreaks.

She said a second correctional officer tested positive, however, “and it’s limited to just him.”

There was “no inmate contact” with the second officer, she added.

“He hasn’t been here,” she said. “He has not had contact with my inmate population.”

The first officer who tested positive has recovered and returned to work, she said.

“He’s doing fine,” she said.

Litsheim said the jail had been accepting only those accused of violent acts—such as domestic violence—and others who posed threat to the public, but the first tier of its reopening plan means they are starting to bring in:

  • Felony suspects the arresting agencies deem to be in need of incarceration—not just those suspected of violent offenses.
  • People accused of violating their probation.

“We want to make sure that we do this systematically,” she said. “As safe as we can.”

Litsheim said new inmates do not go directly into the general population. They, with others newly coming into the jail, are in a quarantine area for two weeks.

Staff members are still wearing masks during security checks and inmate contacts, she said.

A “very nice group” made masks for jail inmates, too, she said.

The sheriff’s office has reopened its lobby for those who want to have live video visits with jail inmates.

One-on-one church services will come up later, but she said that will be a part of a different tier in the jail’s reopening plan.

There is no set number of tiers in the plan because officials are writing the plan as they go, Litsheim said. A pandemic is not something they have ever dealt with, and she said it will create a “new normal.”

“We’re going to ease our way back the other way to make sure that everyone is safe,” she said.