Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Riley: Moving inmates from county jails faster isn't possible

By Desiree Hunter
The Associated Press

Jefferson County officials are looking for other ways to reduce costs and overcrowding in their jails after Gov. Bob Riley told them it is "not physically possible" to remove state inmates from county jails faster than 30 days.

Jefferson County Commissioner Bettye Fine Collins wrote Riley last month asking that the current 30-day limit after sentencing be shortened to 14 days. She said Monday she was let down by the governor's response, which was received Friday.

"I'm disappointed that they can't help us with it," Collins said. "What we're trying to do now internally is be sure that all of our systems of communication are in place and looking to perhaps go to a monitoring system for nonviolent criminals instead of having them in the jails."

Most of the state's 67 counties have their own jails, and inmates who receive state sentences are supposed to be transferred to a state prison within 30 days, according to a Montgomery judge's order approving the terms of a settlement on the jail overcrowding issue.

There were 597 state inmates in county jails with transcripts ready for transfer as of May 25, and about 270 of those were in Jefferson County. At that time, 139 of the inmates had been in county jails for 21-30 days and 11 were past the 30-day time limit.

Sonny Brasfield, assistant executive director for the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, said counties across the state are being burdened by overcrowding and the board has not taken an official position on making its own request to reduce the timeframe.

"We've never agreed that prisoners are our responsibility the first 30 days. There's nothing in the (state) statute about 30 days," he said.

"If our counties contact us and express concern about 30 days, we've always reserved the right to go back to court and talk about that," Brasfield said.

Scott Vowell, who is Jefferson County's presiding judge, is also on the county's Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee, which has been looking for solutions to the overcrowding problem.

"People want to lock up criminals and throw the key away, but no one wants to pay the price that it takes," he said. "If the state can't take them any faster, we'll just have to do everything we can with whatever assets we have."

Here is an idea to reduce jail crowding immediately and to keep it reduced. STOP LOCKING UP PEACEFUL POT SMOKERS!!! All major cities in Alabama should consider an Alabama style lowest law enforcement priority initiative for marijuana. I have some contacts on the Huntsville city council that I am planning to talk to about introducing just such an initiative in the Rocket City. If you are in one of the major cities in Alabama and have a friend on the city council or would like to present your city council with a lowest law enforcement priority initiative then get in touch with me.

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