Morgan County Jail releases more than 100 non-violent inmates to protect against coronavirus

Most of the non-violent offenders being released either failed to pay child support, a ticket, or a fine.

Posted: Apr 21, 2020 9:38 PM
Updated: Apr 21, 2020 10:51 PM

More than 100 non-violent inmates at the Morgan County Jail are no longer behind bars, and they have the coronavirus to thank for it. 

The Morgan County Sheriff's Office says it released them over the course of the last month to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus.

The sheriff's office tells WAAY31 a lot of work is done regarding who stays and who goes. Most of the non-violent offenders being released either failed to pay child support, a ticket, or a fine.

"Over the last month we've dropped our population by about 100," Mike Swafford, with the Morgan County Sheriff's Office, said. 

Swafford says his team reevaluated their inmates following Alabama's first confirmed coronavirus case, on March 13.

"We have about 600 people in the Morgan County Jail, we can house about 1,000 but once we had our first confirmed coronavirus case in Alabama, we went into action to see what was the guidance out there from other states, the CDC," Swafford said. 

Swafford says multiple state guidelines and the CDC recommend correctional facilities not only try to manage their inmate population, but also try to lower it, if possible. The sheriff's office started contacting judges.

"That Monday, we pulled together a list and data that we had, got it to the judges, asked them to review their caseload, and on that Tuesday, they began going over that and determined who could be released and who couldn't," Swafford said. 

Swafford says even if an inmate is released, their case isn't thrown out. He says the courts and judges choose who is released by looking at the charges, the person's history, any medical issues, and their flight risk. Swafford says the jail is seeing less revenue now, but not enough to make an impact.

"We have less cost because we have fewer people in the facility, but then with that, we have less revenue to be generated through the inmates being inside the facility, so those two things kind of balance out, but it's something we are watching closely," Swafford said.

Officials with the Madison County Sheriff's Office tell WAAY31 they are doing similar things in their jail because of the coronavirus, they were unable to make an estimate of how many inmates they've released.

The Morgan County Sheriff's Office says last week, Decatur Police arrested a person who tested positive for coronavirus. They were brought to the jail, quarantined immediately, and have since been released.

Swafford says there are no positive or suspected cases of coronavirus at the sheriffs office at this time.

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