Hall, Fulton counties releasing nonviolent offenders early as virus looms

An inmate is seen in a cell block during a tour of the Fulton County Jail on Monday, December 9, 2019, in Atlanta. (Elijah Nouvelage/Special to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
An inmate is seen in a cell block during a tour of the Fulton County Jail on Monday, December 9, 2019, in Atlanta. (Elijah Nouvelage/Special to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage

The Fulton County Jail, which on Monday reported its first case of COVID-19, continues identifying inmates for early release, a spokeswoman said.

So far 30 people have been freed from custody in Fulton. Hall County has been even more aggressive, releasing 200 inmates.

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“These were inmates with release dates whose files were evaluated by jail staff to determine whether the defendants were eligible to get out of jail early,” said Fulton Sheriff’s spokeswoman Tracy Flanagan. “This is a measure to mitigate jail overcrowding during the pandemic.”

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On Monday, a man in his 30s, who was undergoing treatment for a chronic illness, tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, Flanagan said.

“Jail staff are retracing his movements to find persons who came in contact with the patient prior to the diagnosis to include his roommate who is in isolation,” Flanagan said.

Other inmates in the area have shown no signs of the virus and are being kept on lockdown “for their safety,” she said.

Hall County has yet to record any positive tests for COVID-19. The jail “is a focal point for sheriff’s office coronavirus precautions because of the number of individuals housed in close quarters,” said spokesman Derreck Booth.

Those released were nonviolent, misdemeanor offenders and inmates above the age of 60 who don’t pose a risk to the community, Booth said.

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