Local sheriff hopes new law will alleviate some overcrowding in jails

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 8:21 PM CDT
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LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Ala. (WAFF) - Overcrowding is a problem in Alabama jails and prisons.

One new law might bring some relief to local jails.

“We have people sleeping on the floors,” said Lauderdale County Sheriff, Rick Singleton.

Overcrowding is weighing heavy on jails like the one in Lauderdale County. The jail’s maximum capacity is 256. But the number of inmates? 359.

“Of those are about 39 state inmates who should be in state prison today,” said Singleton.

Sheriff Singleton said a small part of the problem, the department of corrections can be slow to transfer inmates to state prisons.

“We have state inmates that have been in there, in our county jail, anywhere from a few days to over 200,” said Singleton.

The Alabama Department of Corrections is supposed to transport an inmate to a state prison once their court transcripts are complete, usually around 30 days. Until then, an inmate stays in a jail in the county where they were convicted.

A new law that is set to start in January requires an electric notice to be sent to DOC within five days of the sentencing hearing to speed up the process.

It also allows sheriffs to transport inmates to the DOC after the 30 day period has expired.

“Their 30 days didn’t start until they got the transcript so if it takes them 60 days to get the transcript and then they have another 30 days, you’re looking at 90 days in the county jail. What this law does is shorten that time frame where they’re notified within five days of sentencing electronically and the 30-day clock starts then and that cuts the 90-day. window to about 35 days,” said Singleton.

For the time being, they’ve taken over one part of the work-release program to house non-violent offenders to alleviate crowding.

A small solution to a big problem that still lies ahead.

He said the cost of a new jail has increased by $15 million in just four years.

“I’ve told our community, I’ve told our citizens, there are three things I can tell you as a fact: We’re going to have to have a new jail, we’re going to have to pay for it and the longer we wait the more it’s going to cost us.”

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