According to the Columbia County Sheriff Department’s Major Steve Morris, who oversees Detention and Court Services, the county has 218 inmates in the jail on Columbia Road. “Ideally, 336 would be what I would say is full, and right now we’re at 218.”
Morris, who has been over the detention center for almost four years, says it is the lowest inmate count since he took the position. “Knock on wood so far, and I hate to even say this, but we haven’t had any positives so far, so, so far-so good. But that is kind of what we’re working with.”
Morris said the sheriff department is doing their best and at the same time trying to keep everyone safe. With over 300 people at the jail, including inmates and staff, it is very tight quarters.
“If we had an outbreak, everybody would have to go home and quarantine,” which is why the department sent all non-essential staff home and is running a skeleton crew. “They’ve been sent home or they’re alternating. The reason for that is, especially here with the closed up facility like what we have here with 300 plus people and staff, inmates and staff,” Morris said.
To try and keep the inmate population down, Morris said the deputies are issuing citations, where before the outbreak a trip to jail would have been in order.
Morris said the Columbia County Detention Center also takes in Harlem and Grovetown inmates. “It looks like Grovetown has really slowed down. Which is a good thing.”
With so many staff at home, Morris said the road patrol levels have remained constant. “All the beats are still manned. As far as that is concerned, we are fully staffed. It’s just some of the non-essential folks and admin,” Morris said. “There hasn’t been any directives to do something different for our traffic division.”
“Our records division, if we had fifteen clerks in there…I was over there a few minutes ago and I saw three. But as far as our uniformed folks on the road, they are visible and doing the same thing,” Morris stated.
In 2019, there were 484 arrests over March and April. Thus far this year that number has dropped to 296 arrests over the same time span. That is a 39% drop with two weeks left in the month.
DUI arrests in March didn’t see much of a decline year over year. 2019 saw 39 DUI arrests in March compared to 32 this year. April, however, is on track to be much lower by comparison. In 2019 there were 40 DUI arrests compared to just 7 so far this month, including one last night.
Morris said they will be playing catch up once everything is back up and running normally. “Like our Criminal Investigations Division folks. This isn’t an exact number, but say we have twenty investigators. We’ll have ten working this week, and next week they go home and the next ten come in.”
Last Monday’s investigation division report, a cumulation of Friday, Saturday and Sunday’s numbers, reflected almost half of what usually comes in.
“Less crime for sure, which is another good thing,” Morris said.