This article has been updated to include comments from Boone County Sgt. Brian Leer.
COLUMBIA – Race Matters, Friends, a non-profit organization in Columbia, hosted a meeting Thursday to discuss conditions of the Boone County Jail that could pose a possible threat to the health of inmates and detainees.
RMF Executive Director Chad McLaurin, led the meeting in hope of bringing awareness and finding a solution for some of the jail’s problems.
“Race Matters, Friends has been receiving numerous reports from detainees within the Boone County Jail (BCL) concerning extreme low temperatures and inadequate care. This, while detained in a building closed to the public and presumably NOT situated for safe distancing during an ongoing pandemic,” McLaurin said in an email to KOMU 8 News.
Members in the meeting brought up concerns involving both Boone County Jail’s cold conditions and its response to COVID-19.
Claims were made that there was a lack of heat throughout the jail, leaving inmates cold and unable to do anything about it.
Janet Thompson, Boone County District II Commissioner, responded to these claims during the meeting.
“On the detention side, the average temperature is 70 degrees,” she said. “They’ve [Jail Administrators] given up to four blankets to detainees who have complained about being cold.”
KOMU 8 reached out to the Boone County Jail, asking about there being “no heat” and having “inadequate measures.”
“That’s not accurate,” Boone County Sgt. Brian Leer said. “The heat has been checked back there and some parts have been in the 80s.”
Leer said the temperatures inside the jail are not consistent though. He said looking through the security cameras, some people aren’t layered up.
“It kind of depends on where you are at with your comfort level,” Leer said. “Is it cooler in some places back there than what most people would like to keep their living room? Probably.”
RMF members are also concerned with how Boone County officials are handling the pandemic, especially with the jail at its capacity. The issue of possible COVID-19 outbreaks within the jail from both the arrival of new detainees and departure of old detainees was one that RMF members felt was most threatening.
“Knowing the layout of the jail, I don’t understand how you’re putting all of these inmates in A-pod and quarantining them for seven days. There’s absolutely no room,” Marcus Richardson, a speaker in the meeting, said.
With the jail being closed to the public, McLaurin said people outside of the jail system are “losing visibility” of being able figure out these concerns.
Race Matters, Friends extended invitations to officials with Boone County Sheriff’s Department and Boone County Jail to attend Thursday's meeting, but none attended.