Inmates held on misdemeanors will not see early release during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 8:10 AM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 19:36:24-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The Davidson County General Sessions court has denied a petition filed that would have released inmates deemed vulnerable to COVID-19 and charged or sentenced to non-violent misdemeanors.

Metro-Nashville’s Public defender Martesha Johnson filed a motion asking Criminal and General Sessions judges to release potentially hundreds of inmates immediately because of concerns over their safety from the coronavirus behind bars.

Those with misdemeanors in General Sessions are held at the Davidson County Jail and those with felonies in criminal are held at CCA.

The District Attorney and judges have already been granting the early release of some inmates on a case by case basis.

After meeting to discuss Johnson’s motion, the Criminal Court judges denied the request. General Sessions judged did the same on Thursday.

Johnson had asked that all inmates be immediately released under the following circumstances:

  • They have underlying health conditions making them vulnerable to COVID-19.
  • All held on non-violent misdemeanors.
  • All held pre-trial on any crime that is not violent.
  • All held on probation violations.
  • All within 60 days of their release.

The Criminal Court judges ruled against an automatic release of all such inmates without review as being inappropriate. In Thursday's ruling, the General Sessions Court judges says they did not find the measure warranted under the circumstances

But they did order the District Attorney to continue approving releases on a case by case basis.

To date, there has been one reported case of an inmate with COVID-19 in the Davidson County Jail.


See all our coronavirus coverage here


What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV)and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.

What are the symptoms?

The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.


The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.