Call to ease crowds in jail due to COVID concerns, warden back at work after coronavirus

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MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Reports of overcrowding continue to come out of Mobile Metro jail as COVID cases are on the rise in Alabama.  Family and friends of inmates say more needs to be done to allow for some kind of relief.  There’s no good time to be in jail, but it’s especially difficult in the coronavirus age.

“People coming in coughing, being overcrowded, everyone’s tempers are up, stress levels real high,” said Metro Jail inmate Richard Batty. He is serving time in Mobile Metro jail for a probation violation. His fiance Brandy Mason recently recorded a phone call for WKRG News 5 asking him questions about conditions inside.

“It’s like sitting on death row. You don’t know who’s going to come in with it, you can’t stay six feet apart,” Batty said. These are issues families have been railing against for a long time.

“It’s all ridiculous, I understand if you do a crime it comes with consequences just part of being an adult,” said fiance Brandy Mason. She has been advocating for him on the outside.

“He’s had asthma his whole life, diabetes, heart failure, problems due to past drug use,” Mason said. “It’s kind of like a death sentence with there already being COVID in there.” He’s been trying to get into a diversion program, but they have not been successful.  At present the Alabama Department of corrections isn’t admitting inmates from county jails, further compounding crowding issues. 

We took those overcrowding concerns to Mobile County Metro Jail Warden Trey Oliver.

Oliver recently returned to the job after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19. He argues the jail population has been well beyond its capacity for years. Oliver says they’ve improved their quarantine protocols significantly over the last few months and already released several inmates.  He said they had 78 inmates test positive in the past but only had one positive case today and one inmate in isolation. He says it was touch and go for a while.  

“It’s been tough to keep the sick ones from the healthy ones and away from the vulnerable ones. We have to keep the lambs with the lambs and the lions with the lions so it’s been a difficult ongoing challenge,” said Oliver via Zoom today. He said the jail has only recorded one COVID death, medical assistant Ceda Williams. She died in May. With the Department of Corrections not taking inmates from county jails, Oliver says that’s created a backlog of at least 100 people. He says they may never catch up.  

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