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Majority Of Inmates At Valley Street Jail Taken Off COVID-19 Quarantine

Zoey Knox for NHPR

The majority of inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 at Valley Street Jail in Manchester are no longer considered infectious and have been cleared from quarantine status.

Thirty-two inmates at the jail remain positive with COVID-19. The jail says anyone displaying symptoms or considered infectious is now in the COVID isolation unit.

Valley Street Jail, which serves all of Hillsborough County, has had the largest coronavirus outbreak of any county jail in New Hampshire to date, with dozens of staff and 108 inmates testing positive since the beginning of December.

So far, judges have ordered some inmates there to be released on bail, citing concerns about medical care and COVID-19 conditions in the facility.

Last week, a Nashua judge ordered a man facing felony charges be released on bail from Valley Street Jail, noting that the defendant has not seen a doctor since last September. That was in spite of testing positive for COVID-19, having underlying medical conditions that make him high risk for complications, and claiming to have serious symptoms for weeks. He had been in quarantine for nearly a month.

The order noted that neither the court nor the attorneys had been given access to the inmate’s medical records at the jail, in spite of “multiple requests over the course of the last week.”

In a report to Hillsborough County Commissioners on Wednesday, jail superintendent Willie Scurry said the facility was making improvements.

After mounting calls from defense attorneys to improve their access to clients virtually during the pandemic, Valley Street Jail is exploring several changes that would allow inmates to speak with their attorneys without relying on in-person meetings.

These include: establishing secure email and voice mail services for attorneys to contact clients and using a room equipped with a video to allow inmates to speak with attorneys prior to a hearing.

The state health department continues to oversee management of the outbreak. New Hampshire National Guard members are conducting weekly tests of inmates and staff, and the jail says it is in touch daily with state health officials.

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.

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