Columbus community leaders discuss overcrowded jail and court backlog

Columbus community leaders discuss overcrowded jail and court backlog

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Inmates say they are sleeping on the floor at the Muscogee County Jail because there are not enough beds.

As overcrowding at the jail continues, Columbus leaders and community activists sat down Thursday to tackle ways to fix it.

Several leaders were in Judge Gil McBride’s courtroom. District Attorney Julia Slater, Sheriff Donna Tompkins, public defenders and a number of community members as well were in attendance to talk about this issue that more and more people are concerned and care about.

“Looking at the time people who are incarcerated spend in the local Muscogee County Jail," Rev. Richard Jessie, a community activist said, "and we are engaging the agencies that could have an impact on people being able to go through the process more expeditiously.”

A rapid resolution program, created by a similar gathering in 2015, has impacted issues over the jail population.

“The jail’s population seems to hover around 1,100," McBride said. "The Sheriff told us today that without that program, we would probably be looking at a daily population of 1,300 or 1,400.”

The main goal is to get the number of inmates back under control and see cases go more efficiently through the courts.

“And to do that, you need to come up with a road map and the road map may have some twists and turns that we may not know enough to really chart out an exact path at this point,' said McBride. "But we’re going to come back and come away with an approach for a path forward.”

It’s not just up to law enforcement and the judicial system, according to activists, who said it’s on people in the community too.

“We’re working with inmates to get them to not be coming back,"Jessie said. "That’s one of the things, so we need to teach the citizens about the law and being law abiding citizens, that’s on one hand. On the other hand, we need to make sure that we have a system that is fair and equitable and does not discriminate.”

Thursday’s meeting was only the first step in this process. McBride said they’ve identified problems and causes,so the next step is getting these solution-oriented people back together to think of ways to address the issues.

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