A DUI arrest Saturday didn’t result in the usual overnight stay in the Teton County Jail.
The offender’s car was towed, detention officers took a booking photo and then a sober friend came and agreed to take responsibility for the defendant. The “third-party release” as the Teton County Sheriff’s Office calls it, is a new effort to lessen the chance of exposing inmates and jail staff to the coronavirus.
“We are trying to give as many cite and releases as possible,” Lt. Chett Hooper said.
Defendants then are assigned a court date so that accountability isn’t lost in the process. There are only 12 people in custody in Teton County as of Tuesday, and most have been there since before the start of the worldwide pandemic.
Violent offenders are still being arrested, but the jail has a quarantine protocol in place under which the new inmate will stay in a holding cell for five days and then be transferred to a block of the jail that officers have set aside as the quarantine area.
“Because of our jail numbers right now we are able to do that,” Hooper said.
On any given weekend up to four people would be in what’s commonly referred to as the drunk tank, but because area restaurants and bars are closed there haven’t been as many public intoxication arrests.
If officers do come across people who are too drunk to take care of themselves the officers are ordered to give them a ride home instead of bringing them to the jail.
“With all the bars closed we don’t have the bar crowds to deal with at all right now,” Hooper said. “The numbers of public intoxications and DUIs are drastically reduced.”
The Sheriff’s Office has also suspended in-person inmate visitation, which will be reassessed next week.
Of the dozen inmates currently housed at the Teton County Jail, none are showing symptoms of COVID-19, Hooper said.