Circuit and county judges have, for about two weeks, been reviewing the records of incarcerated persons, at the Jackson County jail and other such facilities around the state, to determine which inmates might qualify for early release.

The initiative was in response to the COVID-19 crisis, in an attempt to space out jail populations so that it would be easier to maintain the social distancing protocol of six feet between individuals.

According to 14th Judicial Circuit Court Operations Consultant Amber Baggett, 28 people at the Jackson County jail have been released early since the reviews were completed and the releases authorized last Thursday. The cases reviewed were those involving inmates with 30 days or less remaining on the sentence, she said.

More than 30 were reviewed by Jackson County Judge Wade Mercer and Circuit Judge James J. Goodman, with about five rejected for the early release.

It was not immediately known whether further reviews for potential early release would take place.

The releases have reset the average daily population to less than 200, whereas before in averaged more like 220.

Once someone was deemed eligible, the judges set a new release date for each, individually.

Baggett said the judges weren’t the only ones involved in the review process; public defenders and prosecutors also looked at the cases and their input played a part in the final decision.

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