Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning. Sign Up

Fewer state inmates in county jails

During a week in November, only one Alabama Department of Corrections inmate was held in a county jail for more than 30 days awaiting transfer to a state prison.

“It’s nothing short of amazing,” said Sonny Brasfield, executive director of the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, about recently low numbers of ADOC inmates held in county jails for weeks awaiting transfers.

Several years ago, county sheriffs and commissions complained about not just the number of state inmates in their jails, but their lengthy stays despite a decades-old court order that ADOC shouldn’t have its inmates in county jails for more than 30 days before transfer.

In July 2020, more than 3,000 state inmates were in county jails, 1,185 on their way to state prisons. COVID-19 protocol drastically slowed intake in ADOC prisons. But before COVID, lingering state inmates were a problem for county jails. They housed 608 of them awaiting transfer in January 2020, according to ADOC records.

In October of this year, 1,572 ADOC inmates were in county jails, 259 of them on their way to prison.

Brasfield said two years ago, some already convicted state inmates would sit in county jails for months before being transferred. They were a financial burden and risk for county jails.

“Those people have no motivation to follow procedures,” Brasfield said. “They have no reason not to be disruptive. So getting those inmates out (of county jails) as quickly as possible is in everybody’s best interest.”

Brasfield credits ADOC Commissioner John Hamm, who was appointed to the job in January 2022, for getting inmates to prison more quickly. Hamm told Alabama Daily News when he became commissioner, it was common to have well over 1,000 state inmates in county jails for more than 30 days. 

“That was going to be a priority of mine coming in,” Hamm said. “Those are state inmates and they needed to come into state custody.” 

Earlier in his law enforcement career, Hamm was sheriff in Barbour County. 

“I have a unique understanding of county sheriffs in Alabama and their situation with state inmates in county jails.”

What Hamm doesn’t have is a lot of room. The state’s prisons are crowded, violent and understaffed, housing in October 20,431 inmates in spaces designed for 12,115 people. Earlier this month, families of men attacked and killed in ADOC prisons begged lawmakers to do something about conditions in the prisons.

“We’re able to do this now, but I can’t guarantee it in the future,” Hamm told ADN. “We’re going to try to keep those 30-day numbers as low as possible.”

Those transferring inmates are different from the “dips and dunks” created by a 2015 law to punish with jail stays those on parole who have technical violations, such as missed appointments with probation officers. Sheriffs had also complained that they were taking up too much space and resources in county jails.

In 2021, lawmakers approved legislation reimbursing jails more to house those parole violators. It also allowed jails that wanted to house more inmates, for a fee, to sign up to do so. None did, Hamm said. 

“We’re trying to (get) them out as quickly as we can,” Hamm said about the “dunks” on 45-day jail stays.

Get the Daily News Digest in your inbox each morning.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Web Development By Infomedia