JANESVILLE

The state prison system announced Saturday it was halting new prisoner admissions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That apparently means that people who are sentenced to prison will have to stay in their local county jails.

Court officials often remark that doing time in the Rock County Jail is harder than in prisons, in part because of restrictions on movement and no ability to be outdoors.

Rock County Sheriff Troy Knudson said nine Rock County Jail inmates were scheduled to be transferred to prisons this week, and he has preliminary word from Department of Corrections officials that those inmates would be transferred, but he is waiting for final word.

This comes at a time that the jail in Janesville was reducing numbers of inmates to reduce the chances of anyone catching the virus.

Last week Thursday, about 311 were incarcerated here, the lowest level in many years, Knudson said. That’s about a 100-inmate reduction since the week of March 9.

The jail’s capacity is 505.

Part of the reduction was due to moving work-release inmates to their homes with monitoring bracelets. The state Probation and Parole office helped by releasing some inmates who were being held on violations of their probation or extended supervision.

The jail has sent three inmates to its medical wing with symptoms similar to COVID-19, and one was sent to a hospital to be checked but was not tested, Knudson said.

Knudson noted the court system has postponed many cases, which could mean fewer defendants sentenced to prison.

“I certainly understand the prisons’ perspective, yet we have our own population issues,” Knudson said Sunday.

The Department of Corrections’ announcement said prison officials will allow some “essential” transfers of adult and juvenile inmates and work with counties on potential tweaks to the order.

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