25Nov 2020
Nov 25, 2020

Georgia Department of Corrections – Changes to Protocols Due to COVID 19

The general trend in Georgia is increasing exponentially with a second waive and a 7-day moving average positivity rate of 8.4% and trending upward (GDPH Dashboard, 2020). The highest number of positive cases are reported in Whitfield County (more than 950 new cases in last 2 weeks per 100,000 residents) and adjacent Murray County (780 new cases in the last 2 weeks per 100,000 residents) in the northwest corner of the state. While neither county has a major city, they are near the City of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Chattahoochee County exceeded 856 new cases in the last 2 weeks per 100,000 residents, which is home to Fort Benning. Surprisingly, the City of Atlanta and surrounding counties are not currently hot spots but are experiencing increases in positivity rating similar to the state as a whole.

The George Department of Corrections (GDC) maintains a COVID-19 Dashboard similar to the one provided by the State Department of Public Health (GDC Dashboard, 2020). It provides inmate and staff statistics for positivity and deaths. While the graphics so not provide a trends graph, the information by facility shows that most facilities currently have a lower number of infected individuals with the exception of the medical jails. Contact visitation remains suspended at least through November 30, 2020 under Governor Kemp’s orders (GDC COVID 19 Updates, 2020). In person visitation requires 12 foot distancing, masks, and physical barriers between guests and inmates. Visitors must schedule visits ahead of time and cannot include children under the age of 12 years old. Under normal conditions, the visitation period is up to 6 hours but under the current COVID-19 restrictions that is limited to 2 hours.

County Jail

The following counties were selected based on population and/or position in the state.

Whitfield County, reported as late as August 10, 2020 that none of the inmates had tested positive for COVID-19 (Anderson, 2020). This is attributed intensive screening and segregation of new inmates for 14 days prior to adding them to the general population. Whitfield County has the highest number of community cases in Georgia. No further information was provided.

Chattahoochee County, located in southwestern Georgia, has minimal information readily available for jail procedures and/or COVID information. This county has a high rate of COVID-19 infection but information regarding conditions in the jail are unavailable. Inmates are only held in the jail awaiting trial or if sentence is one year or less (JailExchange, 2020). All inmates with sentences longer than one year are transferred to the state or federal prison systems.

Washington County is located in central Georgia. Inmates are only held in the jail after arrest, if awaiting trial, or if sentenced to one year or less jail time (WCGA, 2020). Inmates sentenced to longer than one year are transferred to other facilities.

Policies
Type of FacilityFamily VisitationAttorney VisitationCommissary/Money for ExpensesOther Programs
General InformationHours and Parking for VisitationInmate Property Release
State-Run Correction Facility
  • Up to 2 pre-approved visitors may visit an inmate monthly in person under no contact conditions including masks, barriers, and 12-foot social distancing.
  • No children under 12 years old allowed.
  • Visitation is extremely limited to reduce the number of people in the visitation room.
  • Inmates with last name beginning with A-L will visit on Saturdays from 9am to 11am or 1pm to 3pm. Inmates with last names beginning with M-Z will visit on Sundays with same hours.
  • Visitor will park in designated areas and receive a number from the staff, which will let the visitor know when they may leave their car and enter the building.
Not disclosedNot disclosed
  • GDC uses JPay for commissary expenses.
  • Package program available including holiday packs.
  • Extensive job training and education opportunities for reentry.
Whitfield County
  • One in person visit is permitted per week with a maximum of 3 visitors including infants and children.
  • Inmate initiated calls are collect.
  • In person is allowed except on Tuesdays and Fridays. Visitation is allowed from 8am-10:30am, 1pm-3pm, and 6pm-9:30pm.
  • Kiosk, tablet, video visitation through JailATM.com hours are 5:30am to 11:30pm daily.
  • All money is deposited to the inmate’s jail account and debts paid from that account before being available to the inmate for purchases at the commissary.
  • Personal property will be released to the inmate or their designee upon release.
  • Funds will be released as a check or on a debit card.
Not specified. Did note that official/legal mail will not be monitored.
  • Deposited online or at the jail kiosk.
  • There is a $45 weekly limit for purchases at the commissary.
  • Indigent or inmates with negative balances will still have basic sanitation and hygiene products billed to their accounts and any funds received prior to release, or if they are rearrested, will be due.
  • Inmates participate in work crews inside and outside the jail setting to offset costs to the community to house inmates.
Chattahoochee County
  • Inmates are limited to those who are arrested, awaiting trial, or have one year or less of jail time.
  • Visitation through scheduled visits but information on doing this is not available.
  • Inmates can call out.
Not disclosedNot disclosedNot disclosed
  • Available but methods not disclosed
Not disclosed
Washington County
  • Inmates are limited to those who are arrested, awaiting trial, or have one year or less of jail time
  • On-site visitation is video only and must be scheduled at least 1 day in advance.
  • Off-site visitation is via computer or android device.
  • Inmates have access to telephones in their cell blocks.
  • On-site video visitation is scheduled for Wednesdays and Sundays. Hours were not given.
  • Off-site visitation through computers are scheduled and allowed from 8am to 9pm daily.
  • No specific information provided.
  • No specific information provided.
  • Inmates have jail accounts that can be funded via kiosk, online, or by phone.
  • G.E.D. program and chaplaincy offered

Infection Rates and Death Rates

The general trend in Georgia is increasing exponentially with a second waive and a current positivity rate at 8.4% for the state.

County Jails

Whitfield County includes the City of Dalton. Whitfield County has the highest rate of infection as of November 18, 2020 of the 159 counties in Georgia (GDPH Dashboard, 2020). As of August 10, 2020, there had been no reported cases of COVID-19 in the county jail but more recent information was not found (Anderson, 2020).

Chattahoochee County includes Fort Benning and has minimal information provided about the procedures or COVID-19 impacts.

Washington County provides some information on procedures and it is unclear if the on-site video visitation is a response to COVID-19 or an existing policy. In October, 2020, the jail reported positive cases for employees and inmates (40/29News, 2020).

Type of FacilityInfectionDeath
NumberPositivity RateNumberDeath Rate of Positive Cases
State JailsInmate2,183undetermined803.7%
Employee1,062undetermined20.2%
Whitfield CountyInmate01undetermined0undetermined
Employee0undetermined0undetermined
Chattahoochee CountyInmateNot disclosedundeterminedNot disclosedundetermined
EmployeeNot disclosedundeterminedNot disclosedundetermined
Washington County2InmateNot disclosedundeterminedNot disclosedundetermined
EmployeeNot disclosedundeterminedNot disclosedundetermined

References

40/29News. (2020, October 19). Washington County Jail reports positive COVID-19 cases. Retrieved November 20, 2020 from 40/29 News: https://www.4029tv.com/article/washington-county-jail-reports-positive-covid-19-cases/34406652
Anderson, R. (2020, August 10). No positive cases of COVID-19 among inmates at the Whitfield County jail. Retrieved November 20, 2020 from Daily Citizen-News, Dalton, Georgia: https://www.dailycitizen.news/news/local_news/no-positive-cases-of-covid-19-among-inmates-at-the-whitfield-county-jail/article_5d16ad14-d697-5d97-b782-774cab82514f.html
GDC COVID 19 Updates. (2020, November). COVID-19 Updates. Retrieved November 19, 2020 from Georgia Department of Corrections: http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/
GDC Dashboard. (2020). COVID Dashboard. Retrieved November 19, 2020 from Georgia Department of Corrections: http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/content/CVD_Dashboard
GDPH Dashboard. (2020, November 18). COVID-19 Dashboard. Retrieved November 19, 2020 from Georgia Department of Public Health: https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report
JailExchange. (2020). Chattahoochee County Jail. Retrieved November 20, 2020 from JailExchange: https://www.jailexchange.com/city-and-county-jails/georgia/chattahoochee-county/chattahoochee-county-jail
WCGA. (2020). Jail Information. Retrieved November 20, 2020 from Washington County, Georgia: https://washingtoncountyga.gov/departments/sheriffs-office/jail-information/

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