County jails need help housing inmates, association says

County jails need help housing inmates, association says
The ACCA says Alabama counties face an inmate crisis. (Source: wsfa)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Sweeping changes to Alabama’s Criminal Justice System in 2015 are having unintended consequences on county jails, according to the Association of County Commissions of Alabama.

The 2015 reform did decrease the prison population as intended. However, the association said in a recent report that county jail populations increased drastically, therefore, increasing the cost burden on counties.

“The changes that were made really emphasized using the local county jails and local programs as a substitute for having people locked up in the prison system," said the Association of County Commissions of Alabama Executive Director Sonny Brasfield.

The report says the cost to operate county jails increased by $31 million from 2014 to 2018 across the state. Alabama allows for dunks in prisons. A parolee can be “dipped” in a county jail for about three days if they violate certain terms.

Brasfield said counties take on additional costs for housing inmates. For instance, they pay for inmate medical bills, bedding, and for portions of the food.

Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham said the Montgomery County jail does not face a large influx of inmates like other jails.

“You’ve got to realize, a lot of counties can’t afford that extra cost," Cunningham said. "That cost is being pushed back on the commission.”

The report said the number of inmates in state prisons decreased by 5,000 inmates from 2014 to 2018. It also said the state inmate population in county jails increased by 6,000 during that same time period.

The association wants lawmakers to make changes to the 2015 legislation. They also want to be included in any additional prison reforms made in 2020. Brasfield said if there are not changes made to help the counties, they would like counties to receive additional funds to help with the influx of inmates.

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