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'They're not doing anything' l Concerns over COVID precautions at Rock Island Co. Jail

Families claim the jail is not doing enough to protect inmates from COVID-19. Officials say protocols are being followed, but there is a bigger issue state-wide.

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — Families of inmates at the Rock Island County Jail are raising concerns surrounding COVID-19 safety measures.

From PPE, mask-wearing and quarantine, one woman claims the jail is not doing enough to protect inmates.

"They're not doing anything to help them," said inmate girlfriend Celeste Phelps. "That's not fair." 

Phelps explained she's more concerned than ever right now.

"They don't want people to find out that they're unsanitary," Phelps said.

Her boyfriend has been in the Rock Island County Jail since November 2021. She claims COVID-19 protocols are not being followed inside the jail.

"He called me and told me there's a giant outbreak in the jail," Phelps said.

The county said there is a different story.

"To characterize it as an outbreak or that there is some problem that we have here is simply not true," Rock Island County Sheriff Gerry Bustos said.

Bustos said no inmates are positive for COVID, as of Jan. 20. He said there are only a "couple" staff members out sick.

Phelps' boyfriend talked to News 8 on the phone about his concerns.

"They just let us all in here, the negative and positive cases together," he said. "Obviously it makes you feel like, if you're a poorer person and in jail, that you're being slighted."

The sheriff said there is a different issue right now. He said his hands are tied. There are almost two-dozen inmates ready to be sent to prison, but due to COVID-19, they must stay in the county jail.

"All 102 sheriffs in the state of Illinois are in a very tough situation," Phelps said.

Illinois prisons are not accepting transfers from county jails to try to prevent any possible COVID spread.

The sheriff said safety is top of mind in the jail.

"We certainly have a lot of protocols in place," Bustos said.

Phelps questions whether they are being followed.

"Honestly, I just think everyone in there is going to catch COVID," Phelps said.

Bustos said the challenges will remain throughout the pandemic.

"I have to hold them," Bustos said.

The sheriff said the jail has had seldom cases pop up. Rock Island County Jail has not reported an outbreak since the pandemic began.

New inmates must go through a quarantine period. Only people with serious offenses are being allowed. 

Inmates are tested after showing symptoms, according to the sheriff. The jail has hosted three vaccine opportunities and a fourth clinic is being planned.