Lower inmate numbers equal more taxpayer savings - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Lower inmate numbers equal more taxpayer savings

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County leaders say they're seeing results from a push to reduce the number of people in the county jail. County leaders say they're seeing results from a push to reduce the number of people in the county jail.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Madison County leaders say they're seeing profitable results from a push to reduce the number of people in the county jail.

Since the beginning of the year, county government has been trying to speed up processing of bail and bond requests and move hearings forward so suspects, convicts and probation violators are moved through the court system faster instead of languishing in the jail, at steadily increasing taxpayer expense, waiting for court dates.

County Commission Chairman Dale Strong said the population in the jail has gone from over 1,100 to 946 in the past 11 months, and he's hoping to get it down lower.

At a cost of approximately $45 per inmate per day locked up in the jail, officials said those numbers add up substantially over the course of a year.

"We're eleven months into this process. It started at 1,100 prisoners. As of today, we're talking 946. That's a savings of some $6,000 a day that the taxpayers of Madison County are saving," said Strong.

Strong said the effort has been a cooperative one involving law enforcement, the county District Attorney's office and the courts. 

In one initiative, retired Judge James Smith has been hearing cases to reduce the load on other judges and to speed up the process. Each week his court takes up a "rocket docket" of admitted probation violators who would otherwise be held in the jail without bond. Instead they are quickly processed to complete their sentences at state facilities or, with the approval of their probation officers, maybe get a second chance on the outside.

In the future, Strong said he hopes to do more, possibly getting inmates with mental issues out of the jail to care they may need. 

He also said he's been in contact with the state's Chief Justice, Roy Moore, to talk about the possibility of the state sending Madison county more judges to speed up processing of cases.

"He understands what's going on. He understands Madison County has made a huge commitment," Strong said.

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