Overcrowded Jails and Speedy Trials – WTVM Legal Break

Injury & Accident Attorney Serving Nearby Areas of Columbus & Fort Benning, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama

Gary Bruce answers questions from WTVM viewers in the Columbus, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama area. The first viewer asks what can be done to relieve overcrowding of local jails. Overcrowding is experienced in jails all over the country and new approaches to the problem have developed over the last few years. While the solution to overcrowding used to be to build more jails, now we are seeing new solutions. Some crimes are being reclassified to carry different sanctions, such as civil penalties instead of jail time. Other efforts include providing alternatives for those with mental health issues who are convicted of crimes and focusing on employment opportunities after release to decrease recidivism rates. The District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit have implemented programs in recent years to help combat the issue of jail overcrowding in Muscogee County.

Another viewer asks Gary to explain the right to a speedy trial. The right to a speedy trial is a protection afforded by the U.S. and state constitutions, which provides that citizens cannot be incarcerated for an unreasonable amount of time without a hearing. In determining whether a citizen’s rights have been violated in this regard, courts look to a number of factors including: who is at fault for the delay, whether the incarcerated person has asserted his or her right to a speedy trial, and why the incarcerated person is still being held.

If you have been injured and have questions about your legal rights, please call The Law Offices of Gary Bruce at  706-596-1446 or email lawyer@garybrucelaw.net to set up a free and confidential consultation.


Narrator: Now, answering your questions about the law and legal issues – this is Legal Break with attorney Gary Bruce.

Maureen: Hello there, Gary. Thank you for joining us again as always.

Gary: Thanks!

Maureen: We’ve got some great questions today. We’re going to start off with a man on the street question. So, let’s roll that and see what the question is.

Question One: Hey Gary! So, I was just wondering because our Muscogee County Jail is so overcrowded, what can we do to relieve that or free up some space?

Gary: Well it’s a good question. I’m not running for mayor so I don’t have all the answers for this one. In the old days, I think the answer was to build more jails, right? But we’ve seen that really isn’t doing the job, so where we see and I think where we’ve seen through nationwide some help is reclassifying some crimes. It shouldn’t result in jail time making maybe some possession crimes civil penalties, which would be fines instead of incarceration. Looking at mental health issues, you know – do we invest in mental health issues in our community as opposed to just jailing people who need help.  Creating jobs, looking at recidivism – trying to keep people from going back by giving them opportunities and hope. It just seems to me it’s going to take a different mindset and I think we’re on track toward that. I think we see a lot of that. Our governor did some good things in our local public defender’s office and the district attorney’s office has done some good things and trying to move some cases along so that people get out or go on to prison. So, what do you do? Good question – I think everybody’s looking for that answer, I wish I had them. I think we’re working on those things. If we can have good discussions, maybe we can fix these problems.

Maureen: Yeah, absolutely. We also have a hot topic – what constitutes a speedy trial? We’ve heard this term, but I don’t even know what that means.

Gary: Well, it’s guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and most states. I think all states would say that we are not going to incarcerate people for no reason for an undetermined amount of time and we’re entitled if you assert the right. So you have to make the assertion that I want to be released, I want a speedy trial, and want this to come to a head. If you do and you’re still stuck there for a long time because you can’t make bond or for whatever reason, the courts have a four point test that they look to. Whose fault is it that you’re there that long? Did you assert your right? Is there some reason that you’re there? You know, these kind of issues balancing equities and what’s fair and if you’ve been held too long for an unreasonable amount of time then prisoners can be released. So, it’s a protection of our constitution that is invoked generally and important.

 Maureen: Yes, very much so. Now we know, right?

Gary: I hope so.

Maureen: Thank you for the questions. Keep them coming and we look forward to seeing you on the very next Legal Break.