During the September mid-month county commissioners meeting last Tuesday, officials said they liked the idea of moving some inmate hearings from the downtown courthouse to the courtroom housed in the Liberty County jail.
If approved at the commissioners’ October meeting, high-risk inmates
will no longer be driven from the jail to the courthouse for preliminary hearings. Chief Deputy Keith Moran said this action is being taken to ensure the security of Hinesville residents and to cut the cost of transporting the inmates.
"We move many inmates every day, so it's an improvement for security," Moran said. "We're trying to reduce inmate movement because it's also very costly."
Moran also said that despite the change in location, hearings will still be open to the public.
"We're going to put up signs letting people know," Moran said.
A video arraignment system, which cost Liberty County $32,000 and Chatham County $30,000, was put into place in April 2007 to ease these exact concerns. Although officials are experiencing a few technical problems with the video system, Clerk of Courts Barry Wilkes said the video
system is still in use
and the jail courtroom is not meant to replace it. In fact, Wilkes said, they plan to increase use of the
video arraignment system.
"It's an addition to the video conferencing," Wilkes said.
Wilkes said the plan is for the jail courtroom to alleviate the current over-crowding of the courthouse facilities and serve as a facility for high-risk inmates in order to decrease travel risks and costs.
"The sheriff's office has grave concerns about the safety of transporting inmates," Wilkes said. "Only Superior court cases will be held there."
Wilkes also said that despite the change in location, his staff will not be required to drive to the new location every day.
"My staff will not be going out there. Judges have agreed to waive the requirement for a clerk to be present," Wilkes said.