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UPDATE: Inmates with $5K or less bonds to be released from county jail

By J.R. TIDWELL / Editor

The 19th Judicial Circuit has made the decision to release a number of inmates in light of both overcrowding and coronavirus concerns.

The court system made an administrative order to release all inmates from county jails held on appearance bonds of $5,000 or less on recognizance with instructions to appear at their next scheduled court appearance.

The 19th Judicial Circuit includes Chilton County, and therefore the Chilton County Jail.

19th Judicial Circuit Chief Assistant District Attorney C.J. Robinson posted the following to his Facebook page concerning the issue:

“We at the DA’s Office are working diligently in response to the administrative order published yesterday by presiding Circuit Judge Ben Fuller ordering the release of all inmates with a bond of $5,000 or less who are incarcerated in the jails of Autauga, Chilton and Elmore Counties. A subsequent order was issued allowing the Sheriff of each county to continue to hold those who pose a risk to the public. The DA’s Office had previously engaged in communications with several sheriffs, clerks, and judges throughout our circuit to develop a temporary plan for non-violent MISDEMEANOR offenders who commit crimes during this difficult time. However, the DA’s Office was not contacted, nor given an opportunity to object to the release of any offender prior to the entry of this order. We are screening the lists at all three county jails and filing objections today. If you are the victim of a crime, please know that we are still fighting for you. Many of you have called and expressed concerns as you have learned about the release order. Please understand this was not our idea and we weren’t given an opportunity to be heard before the order was entered.

“We understand the coronavirus pandemic and the potential exposure risks that are on everyone’s mind, but our main concern is to protect our community. Make no mistake; the safety of victims will take precedence in our decision-making. There may even be some inmates who are currently incarcerated on a nonviolent drug offense that has a disturbing criminal history… we will object to their release as well. In addition to objecting to many felony releases, we will also look at those charged with misdemeanors who are a danger to the public and object in those cases as well. Thank you to the judges, clerks and sheriffs who have been in constant contact with us over the last 24 hours since the release order was issued. Our dedicated employees are frantically working on the motions opposing mass release right now.

“Under the current bond schedule implemented by our circuit, the following crimes are all class C or D FELONIES and may have bonds set at $5,000: Felony Domestic Violence (at least 2 prior DV convictions), Felony DUI (at least 2 prior DUI convictions in last 10 years), Criminally Negligent Homicide, Assault 2nd (use of a deadly weapon or caused a serious physical injury), Incest, Enticing a Child, Sexual Abuse of a Child (over 12 less than 16), Child Abuse, Possession of Child Porn, Chemical Endangerment of a Child, Interference with Child Custody, Stalking, Robbery 3rd, Shooting into an Unoccupied Vehicle/Building, Making a Terrorist Threat, Escape 2nd & 3rd, Intimidating a Witness, Cruelty to Animals, Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Injury, Burglary 3rd, Theft 2nd & 3rd.”