State Prisons Versus County Jails

The premise hasn't changed. Sheriff's and counties say obey the 2002 order and take custody of state prisoners in county jails after they have been there for 30 days.

Herbie Johnson is the Autauga County Sheriff.  He says, "The sheriffs of Alabama, they're very much concerned about the day to day over crowding."

Richard Allen is the Alabama Prison Commissioner.  He says, "Prison overcrowding is a problem for the entire criminal justice system not just my department."

Attorneys for both sides told the court that the other had open beds, not being used.

Johnson adds,  "We may be down a few beds today but tomorrow we'll be 10 to 15 beds over."

Allen says the county overcrowding problem is not at the crisis stage.  He says, "They are on average 7.2 inmates over 30 days. That's not a crisis."  He says  what is a crisis is where the prison system is in terms of over crowding, "They are 4% above their rated capacity and we're at 198% above our rated capacity. So the crisis is at the prison system."

But sheriff's disagree.

Johnson adds,  "That's what the sheriff's can't understand, why are there so many empty beds and not being filled by inmates backed up in our county jails."

Allen told Judge Shashy that you can not put dangerous prisoners into work release beds and unleash them on society.

Johnson says, "What I would like to see is the empty beds they have ... Make some fences, and make them maximum security prisons."

In the meantime, the department of corrections unveiled several actions taken since February 28th in an effort to reduce overcrowding at the state level, so more county prisoners can move in. But the counties say it's just not enough.

Reporter:  Ashley Anderson