Sheriff, Chief Justice respond to proposed legislation

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email

RUSSELL COUNTY, AL (WTVM) -  Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb is responding to concerns posed by the Russell County Sheriff over new legislation being proposed.

Russell county sheriff Heath Taylor feels the crime bill being put on the table will lead to a drastic increase in the county jail.

Cobb met with members of the Alabama Sheriff's Association for several hours Tuesday.

She tells WTVM her legislation is designed to cut down on recidivism and reducing the length of sentences for nonviolent offenders. She says by saving funds from reducing the length of their sentences, it can be reinvested on probation and parole officers and drug and alcohol programs- which she says are all proven to deter people from re-offending.

While it will cut money out of the state budget, Sheriff Taylor says it will adversely affect the counties, with nonviolent inmates being reclassified and given sentences in jail instead of prison.

"We're going to have an increased number of inmates that our housed in the county jail for extended periods time which is not the function of a county jail. It is not intended to be a long term facility for inmates to serve out their time that should be in a state penitentiary," he said.

Cobb says she is not convinced that nonviolent offenders will be put in county jails with her legislation.

She believes judges will still sentence them to prison or community corrections.

The Chief Justice says there will be a year long study done on the bills and the impact they will have on the jails.

Work on an expansion to the Russell County Jail is scheduled to start in four weeks and Sheriff Taylor hopes the new law won't have it at maximum capacity because that defeats the purpose of the new addition.

Copyright 2011 WTVM. All rights reserved.