By Joel Hall
By the end of the day on Monday, Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough said he plans to have disciplined 30 of his deputies for the mistaken release of four jail inmates.
Speaking at the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce's monthly Early Bird Breakfast, Kimbrough said the deputies would receive the disciplinary action in response to an incident in the spring, in which four inmates were mistakenly released from the county Jail because correctional officers failed to properly fingerprint them and check their identities.
Punishment for the deputies will come in the form of terminations, suspensions, or demotions, the sheriff said. "We have the equipment, and it was working," Kimbrough said. "We have the policies in place, and policies are sound. We had everything in place to keep people from evading our system, except one key thing ... people who would do their jobs.
"I'm not going to stand for it on my watch. Disciplinary action will be issued probably tomorrow or Monday, and I have about 30 people who are going to have tough decisions they have to make," the sheriff said Thursday.
Kimbrough's comment came at the end of a speech, in which he urged his mostly business community audience, and others, to become partners with his department, while it is not in a crisis mode. In the past, Kimbrough said, organizations in Clayton have coordinated with each only in crisis, and that more emphasis needs to put on continual partnerships.
"I think before, a lot of our partnerships were done during times of crisis, and we didn't focus on partnerships when something was right before our faces," he said. "When a bunch of kids get killed, then, we want to start a partnership. One of the things we are doing as a sheriff's department is building more partnerships. If we work together, we can always accomplish more than we can individually."
Kimbrough said the jail's staff-to-inmate ratio is 1-to-17, falling short of a national standard of a 1-to-6 ratio, for correctional facilities. He said the county may be legally vulnerable without more people to staff the jail. "When we get sued for jail conditions, that's a big check," he said. "If you don't want to spend the $1 million on staff, then figure out where you are going to get the $1 million for the civil rights violation."
He said while the jail has 1,920 beds, it has staff to police only 1,200 beds. "We have about 1,700 inmates I have to shoehorn into those 1,200 beds that I have staff for, so we do have some people who don't have the most comfortable accommodations. We routinely have about 200 people who have to sleep on a pallet on the floor."
Kimbrough said the Sheriff's Office has recently partnered with other law enforcement agencies and businesses by instituting a "zone system," in which deputies are geographically assigned to certain areas of the county to serve warrants and perform other duties of the office. He said the office is also working on instituting a "burglar detail," in which deputies will work with local law enforcement to make sure those identified as burglars are served warrants for arrest.
In addition to law enforcement partnerships, Kimbrough said the Sheriff's Office has increased it's partnerships with the school system. The department recently expanded it's summer Youth Academy for middle school students, he said, from one 20-member class to two, 100-member classes, thanks to support from the school system.
He added that his office is working on expanding it's safety-education courses for fourth-graders to younger grades of students. "We currently provide that to our fourth-graders, but we're thinking about moving that up some," he said, "because a first-grader needs to know not to touch a gun. A first-grader needs to know what to do when a stranger comes by."