The eight inmates facing new criminal charges in Friday's melee had their first appearances Monday before Richmond County Magistrate Court Presiding Judge H. Scott Allen.
All eight are housed on the west cell block on the sixth floor, which is reserved for those accused of committing major violent crimes.
The trouble in the cell block started Tuesday when inmates made a grab for food trays, Johnson said.
The officers in charge punished the inmates by denying them access to an in-house "store" where they can purchase items such as candy and personal items.
On Wednesday, the inmates tried to rush out of their cell block in an attempt to get to the east side and fight with the inmates there, Johnson said. That resulted in two days on lockdown - inmates were not allowed out of individual cells into the common area of the cell block.
The next morning, an inmate turned in a homemade knife - or shank - another prisoner had fashioned with wire and an Ace bandage, Johnson said.
The lockdown ended Friday morning. That evening, when deputies on duty on the west cell block tried to break up a card game that included gambling - which is prohibited - the inmates refused to stop, Johnson said. The inmates then attacked, the three officers on duty reported.
The deputies had no weapons to defend themselves, Johnson said, but they were able to call for backup.
Johnson said all 31 men in the cell block were involved.
Before extra deputies helped quell the violence, three officers suffered broken bones. One was stabbed in the face with a pencil. Six were taken to the hospital.
"I don't understand," Johnson said. "It's not like they (inmates) can win." He estimated it took about 10 minutes to put all the inmates back into the cells.
Johnson said the eight men considered the ringleaders in the incident have been charged with aggravated battery and rioting.
Three of those charged were being held in jail on murder charges. The rest are awaiting trial on armed robbery charges.
One of those accused, Jatavious January, has been in jail since his arrest for a June 28, 2007, killing, according to court records. Another, Levaughn Sloans, has been held since his arrest for a May 1, 2008, killing.
The longer an inmate stays in the jail, the more likely he will become a disciplinary problem, Johnson said.
The jailers have problems with inmates forming alliances inside that can lead to violence toward other inmates and officers. Johnson said they try to split up these groups as soon as possible, but overcrowding leaves them with few options.
Although the cell block where the incidents occurred is not overcrowded, the county's jails - including the one on Phinizy Road - are over-capacity, with 987 inmates Monday morning. The capacity is 910.
Johnson said the judges have been moving cases through the system faster, which gets inmates out of the jail faster, but he would like to see the cases of those charged with violent offense moved quicker.
On Monday, there were about 145 people in jail awaiting trial on charges of murder, armed robbery and aggravated assault, he said.
The most recent flooding of the decrepit Law Enforcement Center and the plans to move sheriff officers to a different facility will not affect the jail at the Law Enforcement Center, Johnson said.
The jail portion will remain operational, he said. The Phinizy Road jail is currently being expanded, but it will not replace cells at the Law Enforcement Center.
Eventually the plan is to further expand the Phinizy Road jail to include rooms for booking, and bonding and release areas as well as another pod, Johnson said.