Covid-19 in prisons and jails


There is still no public information coming out of the ACC sheriff’s office (or from local public health officials) about COVID’s spread (or containment) in the Clarke County jail. At least one elderly prisoner in the local jail was hospitalized recently with the virus.  His public defender told John Vodicka that he agonized for several days not knowing whether his seriously ill elderly client would survive to be able to resolve his case.  This person is alive, but is back in a jail cell, where he has been since July 2020.


As of Feb. 6, the Georgia Department of Corrections was reporting cumulative totals of 1,574 prison staff members testing positive for COVID (up 27 from the previous week), with 1,458 recoveries (up by 60) and four deaths (up 2). 3,381 prisoners have tested positive (up by 54), with 3,104 recoveries (up by 50) and 88 deaths (no change). 

“After five weeks of weekly increases exceeding 100, it’s good to see the increase in prisoners testing positive dip to 54,” wrote Al Lawler, a court-watcher from Jubilee Partners in Comer. (The GDC has pushed back the prisoner visitation date until 2/19/21.) 

Last month, Georgia Chief Justice Harold D. Melton issued his “Tenth Order Extending Declaration Of Statewide Judicial Emergency.”

Again, Justice Melton has ordered that jury trials not begin until at least March 2021. 

“Deadlines for jury trial proceedings (including statutory speedy trial demands), deadlines for grand jury proceedings, and deadlines calculated by reference to the date of a…criminal jury trial or grand jury proceeding shall be suspended and tolled,” Justice Melton wrote in his latest order. The dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of ACC criminal cases that have been backlogged for nearly a year will remain in a holding pattern. 

In another part of Justice Melton’s order, he reiterated that courts “must ensure the public’s right to access to judicial proceedings and in all criminal cases, unless affirmatively waived in the record, a criminal defendant’s rights to confrontation and an open courtroom.”