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Augusta, Georgia (WJBF) Nearly a thousand inmates are waiting for their court date at the Webster Detention Center after COVID overwhelmed the court system and caused a massive backlog.

“That’s the way it is, and that’s what we have to work on. Before COVID, we had at least 400 inmates, now it was about 800, now it’s about 1,200,” said Major Charles Mitchell of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

To address overcrowding, the space was packed: court officials and city leaders sat down to work on solutions.

In order to get prisoners released, they have to be brought to court, but the public defense has its hands full.

“They need more public defenders to get people through, and the challenge public defenders are facing is that they are not paid enough,” said Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle.

One of the proposals made at the meeting is to set up a working group to address the issue of overcrowding.

“One way forward is to set up a committee where we can all come together and find viable solutions. That is the silver lining,” said Commissioner Stacy Pulliam.

At the end of the year, the sheriff proposed a new two-hundred-bed jail, and despite all the focus on speeding up the court process, that plan has not changed.

“We’re going to have to build a prison wing. There’s nothing we can do about that, but we can make sure there’s a program in place that will prevent us from having to revisit this discussion about overcrowding in the future,” said Commissioner Jordan Johnson.

“In the last two weeks, 266 people have been arrested. These are all crimes. But as long as these numbers continue, we will have the same problem,” said Major Mitchell.

But work begins to reduce the problem.

In Augusta, George Eskola, WJBF NewsChannel 6.