BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Since Hurricane Michael, the 14th Judicial Court has been allowing jails to release inmates early who do not pose a threat. Now in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, they are enhancing this protocol.
On March 16th, 14th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Christopher Patterson issued an administrative order that places the circuit under emergency conditions.
“We have enhanced our review of cases since March 16th,” said Judge Patterson.
This allows county jails to release inmates who have served a significant portion of their sentence, by reviewing on a case-by-case basis.
“We are working to release those persons that pose no safety risk to the community,” said Judge Patterson.
Patterson says many of these cases being reviewed are misdemeanor cases.
In Jackson County, 28 inmates have already been released due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Patterson says that to his knowledge, there are no positive cases within the jail system. They are trying to keep their jail populations as low as they can, keeping in mind safety and health issues.
“That does allow us some flexibility for their sheriff to place infected persons in separate wings or seperate locations,” Patterson said.
They have been using this protocol since Hurricane Michael.
“We have been doing that in our county jails here for about 14 to 15 months now, Patterson said.
Patterson says in making these early releasing decisions, their number one goal is community safety.
“We will continue to honor those obligations to the community and to the safety of the community and victims moving forward,” Patterson said.