The Wharton County Sheriff’s Office is complying with a disaster declaration that is putting strict visitation rules in place.

Sheriff Shannon Srubar alluded to this when he and other first responders attended and spoke during a meeting led by Wharton County Judge Phillip Spenrath on Monday, March 16. Spenrath signed a disaster declaration following Gov. Greg Abbott’s declaration late last week.

Srubar said the WCSO followed through with the suggestion to suspend inmate visitation at the jail until further notice.

He said only defense attorneys would be allowed in to interview their jailed clients after completing a COVID-19 medical screening process.

“There are no confirmed (or suspected) cases at the jail,” the WCSO said. “These are precautionary measures being taken in an abundance of safety for all concerned.” 

Then the Texas Commission on Jail Standards (TCJS) followed suit.

A “Technical Assistance Memorandum” from Brandon S. Wood, executive director of TCJS, was released Friday, March 13.

It read as follows: “In accordance with section 418.016 of the Texas Government Code, the Office of the Governor grants TCJS’s request to suspend 37 Tex. Admin. Code Visitation Plan. This suspension is in effect until terminated by the Office of the Governor or until the March 13, 2020 disaster declaration is lifted or expires. Jails will not be issued a notice of non-compliance for the suspension of visitation. All efforts should be made to allow attorney visitation so as not to impact the court system. Attorney should be screened prior to entry into the facility.”

 “The TCJS Visitation Plan only applies to public visitation,” the entity said in the press release. “Individuals that are carrying out law enforcement activities, to include probation and parole officers, are not prohibited from entering the jail and are not included in the suspension of 291.4 Visitation Plan. These individuals should be screened prior to entry into the facility.”

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