White County Sheriff Doug Maier is echoing the advice of the county's state's attorney as it applies to the governor's stay at home Executive Order. “State's Attorney Denton Aud spoke for law enforcement in the county,” Sheriff Maier said. “I feel he made it clear that we will not enforce the Executive Order – this is not a law enforcement issue. We are more concerned with the Constitutional rights of our citizens.”
While affirming his officers won't enforce the governor's Executive Order, Sheriff Maier acknowledged that COVID-19 has had a huge impact on how his department operates. “This has been a very unique and difficult time,” Sheriff Maier said. “My staff and deputies have also been placed in a very difficult situation. I am extremely proud of them for their commitment to continue to serve and protect the people of White County, placing themselves at risk to do so.”
Maier added his officers are continuing to avoid as much contact as possible by handling many of the county's non-emergency calls over the telephone. However, Maier added that in the majority of the calls, his deputies still respond in person.
Sheriff's deputies as well as corrections officers have personal protection equipment (PPE) including masks, eye protection, gloves and hand sanitizer available if the situation requires. “Deputies do not wear masks all the time. Only when entering an environment where the risk would warrant this.”
COVID-19 has impacted the type of calls for service the Sheriff's Department handles. “We have seen an increase in some types of criminal activity, namely domestic violence,” Sheriff Maier said. “This is expected as people have lost jobs and are asked to stay at home as much as possible. We have seen the negative effects of the “stay at home” order. Mental health and substance abuse issues have increased.”
Currently, there have been no positive COVID-19 cases at the White County jail. The jail at Carmi houses not only White County inmates, but also inmates from neighboring Edwards and Hamilton Counties along with a number of federal prisoners. As of May 1, the jail census stood at 49 inmates. The number of federal prisoners housed in pretrial detention has remained the same since the COVID-19 emergency with no transport and very little movement of prisoners.
In an effort to keep the inmate population healthy, Sheriff Maier said that all prisoners are checked for symptoms when entering the jail. Temperature is taken and each inmate is asked a series of questions to determine risk of exposure to the virus. If warranted, the county's medical provider will determine a course of action, the sheriff said.
Additionally, the jail is utilizing video for court appearances for both White County and out of county inmates. The use of video teleconferencing technology has eliminated transport and movement of inmates in and out of the county jail.