COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Over the holiday weekend, Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman issued a public warning saying the Jail had exceeded bed capacity.
It’s a combination of a COVID crisis in the Superior Court clerk’s office and Maintenace issues in the jail that have it beyond capacity.
There are 1,099 inmates in the jail on Wednesday, 30 more than there are beds for.
“The numbers are going up daily,” Countryman said.
One of the issues is a COVID outbreak in the criminal division of the Superior Court clerk’s office. It has been closed to the public for more than a week and won’t reopen to public access until Tuesday, July 12.
The clerk’s office is behind in filing paperwork with the state Department of Corrections. This has caused inmates that should be moved to the state system to be stuck in the Muscogee County jail.
“The court packets that come from the office of the Superior Court clerk is not making it to the Department of Corrections,” Countryman said. “And, so if that’s not happening, we can’t move anything. And, we are sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place.”
Superior Court Clerk Danielle Forte has been working with the city for solutions. One is overtime in the department to expedite the paperwork.
“We are taking every step practical to reduce the processing backlog and return to normal operations,” the statement read. “We are particularly grateful to other Court Clerks around the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit who have provided resources, advice, and guidance during this difficult time in which our office has been dramatically impacted by Covid.”
Chief Superior Court Judge Gil McBride said shutting down the clerk’s office was not an option.
“It did not shut down the office because that would have shut down the courts,” McBride said. “And there was no health emergency that justified such a drastic step. But it did close her office to the public. And the hope was that would give them a little breathing room to catch up on some of the paperwork.”
Countryman has sought some relief from other agencies.
“I have sent down notices to the police chief, and mayor to ask them if they would consider holding off on large-scale details until we can get the numbers under wraps,” the sheriff said.
Police Chief Freddie Blackmon and he said his office had received the request and in the past the department has worked with the sheriff on such requests.