Georgia Tech student Ari Gordin, arrested for speeding, had to stay in the Fulton County Jail for four days after charges were dropped and he was ordered released, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. His case is not unusual. Gordin had been stopped about a mile from his parents’ home. He was charged with speeding, failure to produce his license on demand, and obstruction. Gordin mouthed off to the police officer, who hauled him to jail.
It is difficult to estimate how many of those in the jail on any given day are being held despite a judge’s order to free them, but people who monitor conditions at the complex say it could reach into the hundreds. A check of jail records by the Journal-Constitution seems to support their contention. On May 13, 18 of the 84 people released had been behind bars two to three days after a judge had ordered them released. Last year, lawyers for 11 former detainees filed a suit in federal ourt arguing that chronic overcrowding and system failures have led to unlawful detentions. The lawyers said they had collected more than 100 affidavits from inmates who claim they were jailed beyond their release date. Stephen Bright of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights said the delays are intolerable. “Once charges are dismissed or people are [ordered] released on bond, the jail has no legal basis for holding those persons,” Bright said. “That’s not the way the system is supposed to work.” U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob, who has overseen lawsuits against the jail, called the extra days spent behind bars “absolutely ridiculous.” On Feb. 3, Shoob ordered the jail to free inmates within 24 hours of posting bond or being freed by a judge. Officials acknowledge that Shoob’s order often is not followed. Bright wants Shoob to forbid Fulton officials from locking up people charged with petty crimes.