Whitfield County Magistrate Judge issued an order that releases individuals for most misdemeanor offenses

DALTON, Georgia (WDEF) – Magistrate judge Chris Griffin in Whitfield County has issued an order that releases individuals for most misdemeanor offenses on their own recognizance instead of bond.

Whitfield county bonding companies are criticizing the order, but Griffin said he was not elected to make the bond companies business but to protect the constitutional rights of those arrested.

“I’m personally for secured bonds. I’m not against any bonding company. They’re here to make a living. I get that. However, it’s not my job to make that living for them,” said Griffin. “I’m here to serve this county. I’m elected and I take that very seriously. You can’t make everybody happy, of course, and I wished I could but that’s not possible. We’re not here to try to put anybody out of business. We’re just here to protect people’s rights and make sure they’re treated fairly. If the guy from under the bridge comes in, he needs to be treated with the same dignity and respect of the guy that lives over in one of those high level subdivisions.”

Griffin’s order does include exceptions for cases involving family violence, probation violations, and not showing up to court.

“ I’ve always been for secure bonds. I’m former law enforcement, but we cannot punish people or make a bond punitive that is illegal,” said Griffin. “If I set you a $1,000 bond or a $10,000 bond, whatever that may be, it’s solely based on that person and what the charges are and what I think as the judge sitting there at that time, will assure whoever bonds you out or helps you make a bond, will get you back to court. That’s all a bond is about, it’s not punishment, punishment comes at your trial. Whether you plead guilty or you’re found guilty, that’s when the punitive part comes, not at your bond hearing.” 

Griffin said he has seen people out on bonds commit crimes and he believes that if someone wants to commit a crime they will do whether they’re out on bail or not. 

“Somebody alluded to the fact that if people weren’t held accountable with a secured bond, they commit more crimes. I see people in here every day, back in my court who are out on a secured bond. They’re right back because they committed other crimes,” said Griffin. “They’re gonna commit a crime, whether they’re on a  $10,000 bond or not, and we seek them out. It happens, you know, unfortunately, I wish I didn’t, but it does.”

Saving space for violent criminals is an important mission for Griffin. According to Judge Griffin, it costs $70 a day per inmate. 

The judge also said the Whitfield County jail has a max occupancy of 556, with around 400 beds currently taken. 

But, it’s not just about the jails being overcrowded, it’s also about keeping from becoming dependent on government assistance after losing their jobs for being unable to make bond. 

“One man I saw in court, he asked for that, because he was gonna lose his job if he didn’t get out of jail. So what have we accomplished if they lose a job? You know, then they have to rely on some kind of social service,” said Griffin. “So then there we go again, it’s back on us and that’s not the punishment. I can’t stress that enough. The bond is not the punishment phase.”

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