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Authorities release 80 McLennan County Jail inmates as COVID-19 precaution

Authorities release 80 McLennan County Jail inmates as COVID-19 precaution

From the Coronavirus latest: What's happening around Waco series
Jack Harwell file (copy)

Officials have released about 80 inmates accused of nonviolent misdemeanor crimes from the McLennan County Jail and Jack Harwell Detention Center since Wednesday as a precaution against COVID-19.

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About 80 McLennan County Jail inmates accused of nonviolent misdemeanor crimes were released from custody by Friday on personal recognizance bonds.

The releases are intended to reduce the jail population and limit the potential spread of COVID-19. Jail administrator Maj. Ricky Armstrong said local judges agreed to release about 80 inmates in accordance with guidance issued this week by the Texas Commission on Jail Standards.

The release from custody does not change the charges against the defendants, Armstrong said. They still will be required to show up for court dates and comply with other bond conditions.

On Wednesday, the same day he announced measures to release certain misdemeanor inmates, McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara sent a letter to local law enforcement agencies requesting they limit or delay arrests for most nonviolent misdemeanor offences.

As of Friday evening, there were 662 inmates in McLennan County Jail, down from 699 Wednesday, and 485 in the Jack Harwell Detention Center, down from 506 Wednesday.

Waco police Officer Garen Bynum said police will continue taking subjects to jail if a warrant has been issued for their arrest, regardless of the level of crime, because warrants are court orders signed by judges.

Officials said it is unclear how long the temporary policies will remain in place.

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