A viral outbreak and travel restrictions are not going to stop local police and deputies from arresting people who might be breaking the law.
But what is happening to those people once they get put in jail during the coronavirus precautions?
Are they getting their day in court, or do they have to wait until April or even May to see a judge?
According to Sheriff Ric McCorkle, no one at Henry County Jail is languishing in criminal-justice limbo because of coronavirus concerns.
“The courts are still functioning, they just aren’t open to the public,” McCorkle said. “Our people are still getting arraigned. They are still setting bonds. They’re still transporting back and forth to the prison.”
All three Henry County courts are still in session, with precautions in place to stop the spread of the contagious coronavirus.
“We’re still functioning,” said Henry Circuit Court 1 Judge Bob Witham. “What needs to get done is still getting done.”
Witham handles mostly family court cases. Since the county-wide coronavirus (COVID-19) precautions went into place last week, Witham has presided over in-person DCS cases and detention hearings.
He is also handling some adoption hearings over the phone.
Criminal cases are still going to court for their initial hearings, too.
If needed, Henry County judges also have the ability to conduct court over video conference, as they have done in the past when people could not appear in-person.
The Indiana Supreme Court issued an order, effective March 16, that lets Henry County suspend criminal and civil jury trials through May 4.
Henry Circuit Courts will review the local situation no later than April 17 and determine whether the trial suspensions are still necessary at that time.
Jail visitor restrictions
It is pretty much busy as usual in the county jail, even under these extraordinary circumstances.
McCorkle said his staff are looking at a possible way to quarantine and isolate any suspect coronavirus (COVID-19) cases that might pop up in the jail.
One of the main safety concerns county leaders are working to solve with Henry County Jail is its limited space to segregate inmates when needed.
The Henry County Jail announced safety precautions March 12 to try protecting the inmate population and staff from possible exposure to the virus from visitors.
The sheriff’s office and jail at 127 N. 12th St., New Castle, is closed to all visitation and public entrance.
￼Approved friends and family members can still visit remotely by video.
The restrictions were originally scheduled to last until April 4. The sheriff’s office said that date is likely to be extended to be in line with the Henry County Commissioners’ public health emergency ordinance, but the new end date had not been announced as of press time Wednesday.
Although Henry County government offices remain closed to the public, all government services continue to be functioning as normal.
Find local government phone numbers in the 2020 Courier-Times Answer Book.