2020 Georgia Code
Title 42 - Penal Institutions
Chapter 4 - Jails
Article 1 - General Provisions
§ 42-4-4. Duties of Sheriff as to Jail Inmates; Designation of Inmate as Trusty; Failure to Comply With Code Section

Universal Citation: GA Code § 42-4-4 (2020)
  1. It shall be the duty of the sheriff:
    1. To take from the outgoing sheriff custody of the jail and the bodies of such persons as are confined therein, along with the warrant or cause of commitment;
    2. To furnish persons confined in the jail with medical aid, heat, and blankets, to be reimbursed if necessary from the county treasury, for neglect of which he shall be liable to suffer the penalty prescribed in this Code section; provided, however, that, with respect to an inmate covered under Article 3 of this chapter, the officer in charge will provide such person access to medical aid and may arrange for the person's health insurance carrier to pay the health care provider for the aid rendered; and
    3. To take all persons arrested or in execution under any criminal or civil process to the jail of an adjoining county, or to the jail of some other county if the latter is more accessible, if the jail of his county is in an unsafe condition, under such rules as are prescribed in this chapter.
  2. Subject to the provisions of this subsection and except as provided by law or as directed by a court of competent jurisdiction, a sheriff shall not release a prisoner from his custody prior to the lawful completion of his sentence including any lawful credits under a trusty system.The provision shall not, however, preclude a sheriff from designating an inmate as a trusty and utilizing him in a lawful manner and, furthermore, this provision shall not preclude a sheriff from transferring a prisoner to another jail in another county if the sheriff concludes that such transfer is in the best interest of the prisoner or that such transfer is necessary for the orderly administration of the jail.
  3. Any sheriff or deputy who fails to comply with this Code section shall be fined for contempt, as is the clerk of the superior court in similar cases. The sheriff or deputy shall also be subject to removal from office as prescribed in Code Section 15-16-26.

(Laws 1799, Cobb's 1851 Digest, p. 574; Laws 1810, Cobb's 1851 Digest, p. 577; Laws 1818, Cobb's 1851 Digest, p. 858; Laws 1820, Cobb's 1851 Digest, p. 480; Laws 1823, Cobb's 1851 Digest, p. 512; Code 1863, §§ 336, 340; Ga. L. 1865-66, p. 64, § 15; Code 1868, §§ 397, 401; Code 1873, §§ 361, 366; Code 1882, §§ 361, 366; Penal Code 1895, §§ 1127, 1128; Penal Code 1910, §§ 1156, 1157; Code 1933, §§ 77-110, 77-111; Ga. L. 1990, p. 1443, § 1; Ga. L. 1992, p. 2125, § 1; Ga. L. 2012, p. 173, § 2-10/HB 665.)

The 2012 amendment, effective July 1, 2012, substituted "Code Section 15-16-26" for "Code Section 15-6-82" at the end of the second sentence of subsection (c).

Code Commission notes.

- Pursuant to Code Section 28-9-5, in 1990, "trusty" was substituted for "trustee" in the first sentence of subsection (b).

Law reviews.

- For note on 1992 amendment of this Code section, see 9 Ga. St. U.L. Rev. 310 (1992).


Legislative intent.

- O.C.G.A. § 42-4-4 was not intended to require that the availability of health insurance was a precondition to obtaining medical treatment for an inmate or that an inmate otherwise would be expected to pay for medical treatment received. Cherokee County v. North Cobb Surgical Assocs., P.C., 221 Ga. App. 496, 471 S.E.2d 561 (1996).

Duty of care sheriff owes prisoners.

- Sheriff owes to a prisoner placed in the sheriff's custody a duty to keep the prisoner safely and free from harm, to render to the prisoner medical aid when necessary, and to treat the prisoner humanely and refrain from oppressing the prisoner; and if a sheriff is negligent in the sheriff's care and custody of a prisoner, and as a result the prisoner receives injury or meets death, or if a sheriff fails in the performance of the sheriff's duty to the prisoner, and the latter suffers injury or meets death as a result of such failure, the sheriff would, in a proper case, be liable on the sheriff's official bond, to the injured prisoner or to the prisoner's dependents. Kendrick v. Adamson, 51 Ga. App. 402, 180 S.E. 647 (1935).

Code Sections42-4-4 and42-5-2 create an obligation merely to provide inmates with access to medical care and the county met that obligation by contracting with a local medical services provider to provide medical care to the detention center. Epps v. Gwinnett County, 231 Ga. App. 664, 499 S.E.2d 657 (1998).

When officers arrested a decedent who died shortly after the arrest, the officers and a city could not be held liable for violating O.C.G.A. § 42-4-4 or O.C.G.A. § 42-5-2 by denying the decedent medical care because: (1) O.C.G.A. § 42-4-4 imposed a duty only upon sheriffs and deputies; (2) O.C.G.A. § 42-5-2 imposed a duty only on a governmental unit having physical custody of a detainee; and (3) the decedent was taken into custody by a county police officer and transported to a county jail, so the decedent was never in the custody of the city, and the suit could not be brought against the city under § 42-5-2. Hoyt v. Bacon County, F. Supp. 2d (S.D. Ga. Jan. 26, 2011).

Sheriff's power to make purchases from third parties.

- County sheriff had the authority to repaint and remark county-owned sheriff's vehicles assigned to the sheriff's exclusive use, but lacked the authority to modify portions of a county-owned building in which the sheriff's office and jail were housed, as the facility was shared with the superior, state, and magistrate courts of Clayton County, as well as the clerks of those courts, the solicitor general, and the district attorney, and hence, not under the sheriff's exclusive use. Summary judgment in favor of the county was reversed as to the former, but affirmed as to the latter. Hill v. Clayton County Bd. of Comm'rs, 283 Ga. App. 15, 640 S.E.2d 638 (2006), overruled on other grounds, Mayor & Aldermen of Savannah v. Batson-Cook Co., 291 Ga. 114, 728 S.E.2d 189 (Ga. 2012).

Removal from office.

- Under former Code 1933, §§ 24-2813, 24-2814, 77-110, and 77-111 (see now O.C.G.A. §§ 15-16-10 and42-4-4), the provisions of former Code 1933, § 24-2724 (see now O.C.G.A. § 15-6-82), providing for the removal of clerks of the superior court from office, applied to the removal of sheriffs from office. Adamson v. Leathers, 60 Ga. App. 382, 3 S.E.2d 871 (1939).

Under former Code 1933, § 24-2724 (see now O.C.G.A. § 15-6-82), sheriffs were subject to be removed from office for "any sufficient cause," and sufficient cause means a cause relating to and affecting the administration of the office and material to the interests of the public. Adamson v. Leathers, 60 Ga. App. 382, 3 S.E.2d 871 (1939).

County's duty to use convicts for road work.

- County has statutory authority to use the county's quota of convicts for constructing and maintaining the county's system of public roads, and it may also legally use convict labor for the purpose of doing any necessary work in or about the county's public works camps (now county correctional institutions). Newman v. Aldredge, 210 Ga. 765, 82 S.E.2d 823 (1954).

Authority to transfer prisoner.

- Sheriff, and not the judge of the court, has the authority to transfer a prisoner awaiting trial to a jail in another county, and then only when the jail in the county where the prisoner is confined is "in an unsafe condition." Howington v. Wilson, 213 Ga. 664, 100 S.E.2d 726 (1957).

Court transferring prisoner to another jail.

- Trial court may not, on the court's own motion, transfer a prisoner to another jail when the court, without the issue being raised, concludes the local jail is not secure. In re Irvin, 254 Ga. 251, 328 S.E.2d 215 (1985).

Recovery of fee by physician.

- When a physician performs an operation on a prisoner at the physician request of the sheriff, the physician cannot maintain an action against the county to recover the physician's fee. Nolan v. Cobb County, 141 Ga. 385, 81 S.E. 124, 50 L.R.A. (n.s.) 1223 (1914).

Sovereign immunity in providing medical care.

- Providing adequate medical attention for inmates under the defendant's custody and control is a ministerial act by the sheriff and his or her deputies and does not involve the exercise of discretion to provide medical care; thus, such act is not subject to either sovereign immunity or official immunity. Cantrell v. Thurman, 231 Ga. App. 510, 499 S.E.2d 416 (1998).

Violation of duty.

- Court granted summary judgment to the United States in a suit alleging that conditions at a county jail violated the inmates' federal due process rights. A sheriff and the members of a county board of commissioners did not dispute that the conditions, including the denial of medical care in violation of O.C.G.A. § 42-4-4, were unconstitutional, and the evidence showed that they had subjective knowledge of the conditions, including copies of the United States' investigation reports, and acted with indifference that exceeded negligence. United States v. Terrell County, 457 F. Supp. 2d 1359 (M.D. Ga. 2006).

Cited in Lumpkin County v. Davis, 185 Ga. 393, 195 S.E. 169 (1938); Tate v. National Sur. Corp., 58 Ga. App. 874, 200 S.E. 314 (1938); Moore v. Baldwin County, 209 Ga. 541, 74 S.E.2d 449 (1953); Cole v. Holland, 219 Ga. 227, 132 S.E.2d 657 (1963); Whiddon v. State, 160 Ga. App. 777, 287 S.E.2d 114 (1982); Manders v. Lee, 338 F.3d 1304 (11th Cir. 2003); Murphy v. Bajjani, 282 Ga. 197, 647 S.E.2d 54 (2007).


Board entering contract with county to house county prisoners.

- Board of Offender Rehabilitation (Corrections) cannot enter into contract with a county to house county prisoners while county jail is being rebuilt. 1954-56 Op. Att'y Gen. p. 527.

Expenditure of funds for parolee's medical expenses.

- Board of Offender Rehabilitation (Corrections) is not authorized to expend funds for payment of medical expenses of a parolee injured in an escape from custody of county law enforcement officials prior to revocation of parole; rather, such is the duty of the sheriff. 1971 Op. Att'y Gen. No. 71-120.

Sheriffs' derivative duties.

- As a natural concomitance of the duties imposed under former Code 1933, §§ 77-101, 77-110, and 77-111, and Ga. L. 1976, p. 949, § 2 (see now O.C.G.A. §§ 42-4-1,42-4-5, and42-5-100), the sheriff would be responsible for calculating the sentences of felony prisoners held in the county jail pending appeal, and would be the appropriate discharging authority should a sentence expire before a prisoner is transferred to the custody of state authorities. 1978 Op. Att'y Gen. No. U78-46.


Am. Jur. 2d.

- 60 Am. Jur. 2d, Penal and Correctional Institutions, §§ 20-22.


- 18 C.J.S., Convicts, §§ 2, 5, 14. 72 C.J.S., Prisons and Rights of Prisoners, §§ 14, 63 et seq., 78 et seq., 123-125. 80 C.J.S., Sheriffs and Constables, §§ 128, 256, 257-259, 271.


- Personal liability of policeman, sheriff, or similar peace officer or his bond, for injury suffered as a result of failure to enforce law or arrest lawbreaker, 41 A.L.R.3d 700.

Liability of prison authorities for injury to prisoner directly caused by assault by other prisoner, 41 A.L.R.3d 1021.

Civil liability of prison or jail authorities for self-inflicted injury or death of prisoner, 79 A.L.R.3d 1210.

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