JONESBORO, Ga. — One of the most powerful and controversial sheriffs in modern Georgia history is getting ready to be sentenced to federal prison.
Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill is out of office, resigning after his conviction in October for violating the constitutional rights of jail inmates. His sentencing date is scheduled for February 28.
Hill’s choice to be his successor, Interim Sheriff Levon Allen, is one of five candidates running in the special election on March 21 to fill the remainder of what would have been Hill’s fourth term. But Allen was a no-show at the Tuesday night candidates’ forum in Jonesboro at Tabernacle of Praise Church International on Tara Boulevard.
All five candidates were invited.
The four other candidates all said, in effect, that the era of Victor Hill and his successor is over and needs to be in the past.
Voters who attended the forum applauded and cheered.
The candidates expressed their revulsion at the recent stabbings and beatings inside the jail, as well as at the actions of corrections officers this past November who allegedly caused the death of a jail inmate; the death was ruled a homicide and is still under investigation.
Allen, who prides himself at being Victor Hill’s protégé and godson, was not at the forum to answer for the conditions at the jail.
“It’s time for a change," said Stephanie Glenn, a Clayton County voter who attended the forum to see and hear from the candidates. “Get the jail back in order, I mean that’s the main thing.”
Glenn and other voters at the forum who talked with 11Alive said they are demanding better from whomever becomes the next Sheriff in the upcoming special election.
“An inmate died,” said voter Arlene Charles, “and it is very disturbing to me.”
Another resident there, Micky Garber, said he just wants to be able to be safe when he leaves the house, “Without having to be worried about being shot, stabbed or abducted.”
The four candidates for sheriff who were at the forum are all experienced law enforcement officers.
Terry Evans said he’ll provide the jail staff with better training and tools.
“People have got to get trained, people have got to have some compassion, people have got to do things the right way,” Evans said. “And if you do it the right way, you don’t have that kind of stuff that goes on.”
Meanwhile, candidate Clarence Cox said he’ll hire more jail staff.
“We don’t have enough staff inside the jail, and that’s a huge problem,” he explained. “We’ll never have a safe jail if we don’t have enough people in there, and we are putting our employees as well as our inmates in harm’s way each day.”
Dwayne Fabian said what he’ll do first is ask the Georgia Department of Corrections to conduct a top-to-bottom sweep of the jail, “To remove all contraband that don’t belong in the jail, to remove all cell phones that don’t belong in the jail, and start watching our employees who help smuggle these things inside the jail.”
The final candidate, Chris Storey, said the current sheriff is not telling people the truth about jail conditions and that he would be transparent about the good and the bad.
“So we have a crisis,” Storey said. “The sheriff’s office is in distress, right now. And it’s going to take somebody who really knows how to run the sheriff’s office to get it where it needs to be.”
As of late Tuesday night, 11Alive had not been able to reach Interim Sheriff Allen to find out why he did not attend the forum and if he plans to attend any other forums between now and the special election on March 21.