COVID-19 impacting DOC picking up inmates

Rising inmate numbers in Alabama

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Thousands of inmates who are waiting to serve time in state prisons are currently staying in local jails. This is a normal process, but now moving those inmates to state custody is taking longer due to COVID-19.

Brent Patterson with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office said the rising number of inmates doesn’t mean his jail is overcrowded, but it does mean extra work.

“As of yesterday we have 981 inmates in our jail, but as of March of last year that number was in the 700s,” Patterson said.

It’s a similar case over in Morgan County. Mike Swafford with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office said the Department of Corrections had a schedule they followed before COVID-19 struck.

“Traditionally, once someone is sentenced the state has 30 days to come get them,” Swafford said. “It has almost been at a standstill and then every now and then they will come collect them to take them where they need to take them, but then you are left waiting until the next time.”

Swafford said the jail is not near crowding capacity, but holding the inmates impacts the budget.

“Really what it does is place the financial burden back on the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, thankfully through the CARES Act the state is supplying additional funds to help with this delay,” Swafford said.

He also said it costs about $38.71 to house one inmate for one day in his jail.

The jail generally receives $2.25 per inmate a day, but right now, the state provides about $28 dollars additional per day per inmate that is supposed to be under the DOC through the CARES Act. That means the jail takes a loss of around $8 per day per inmate.

“That creates a burden for Morgan County,“ Swafford said. “We do have other things in place to mitigate that. We have a commissary that inmates are allowed to purchase things from. Those funds help offset that burden.”

Patterson tells our crews they sent out a bill to cover the cost of the inmates that are supposed to be at the DOC.

Both sheriff’s office leaders said they don’t blame the DOC, and that everyone is working together the best they can.

We reached out to the Department of Corrections and are still waiting on a response.

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