Prosecutor seeks release of Fairfax inmates as COVID-19 reaches county jail

A male inmate at the Fairfax County, Virginia, jail has tested positive for the coronavirus, and the county’s top prosecutor is recommending the release of some inmates in hopes of balancing justice with public safety.

In a statement, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano called the first confirmed positive test of an inmate at the county’s jail “an unfortunate development for our local criminal justice system.”

fairfax county jail
Prosecutor Steve Descano is seeking release of some inmates, now that one has tested positive for coronavirus at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. (WTOP/Neal Augenstein)

Before Tuesday’s announcement by the sheriff’s office that an inmate in his 20s — who has been housed at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center since Jan. 29 — tested positive for COVID-19, Descano said he had been reviewing a list of inmates scheduled for release in the next 60 days.

“Wherever possible, we’ve begun recommending the release of individuals who have adequately paid their debt to society and do not pose a threat to community safety,” Descano said, without specifying how many inmates met that criteria.

Descano said his office has been attempting to work with defense attorneys and judges to find alternatives to holding someone in jail before trial: “We’ve also worked closely with law enforcement and the magistrate to divert individuals exhibiting signs of COVID-19 from our jail directly to a monitored hospital stay.”

A statement from the office of Sheriff Stacey Kincaid said that while they are doing everything they can to prevent the spread of the virus, “it is possible that additional cases will occur, since individuals already could have been exposed.”

More Coronavirus News

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up