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Birmingham Misdemeanor Offenders Redirected to Jefferson County Jail in New Agreement

02 Jan 2024, Jail News, by

Birmingham implements a temporary solution, redirecting individuals arrested for misdemeanors to the Jefferson County jail under an agreement.

Birmingham Misdemeanor Offenders Redirected to Jefferson County Jail in New Agreement - Inmate Lookup

Beginning Monday, individuals arrested for misdemeanor offenses in Birmingham will be taken to the Jefferson County jail instead of the city jail, according to an agreement reached between the city and Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway.

Sheriff Pettway announced on Friday that the agreement is not a long-term solution and is undoubtedly a burden on the county, but he stated that it is a desperate situation. He hopes that Birmingham can resolve their issues quickly and get on better footing. In addition, he said Birmingham is a crucial ally in the struggle to raise Jefferson County’s public safety standards.

Those who would typically be housed in the Birmingham municipal jail will instead be housed in the county jail, per the agreement, which already houses people arrested on felony charges.

He mentioned that if the situation persists, they will address financial arrangements at a later time, emphasizing uncertainty about the duration of Birmingham’s actions.

For years, Birmingham has been actively exploring alternatives to address the challenges posed by its aging city jail. Proposed solutions have involved the creation of a regional jail and collaboration with the county for inmate housing. Nevertheless, recent discussions with the Jefferson County Commission and Mayor Randall Woodfin hit a roadblock, primarily revolving around the reimbursement amount per inmate that the county would receive.

Friday’s announcement of the agreement marked a significant change. Rick Journey, the city’s director of communications, explained that the new arrangement aims to streamline and enhance the process for individuals held in the Birmingham City Jail. He emphasized the city’s commitment to serving the public, employees, and those in custody.

Journey expressed gratitude to Sheriff Pettway for collaboration, characterizing the current agreement as aligned with state statutes and asserting that it would not compromise public safety. On the contrary, he stated that it reinforces the close collaboration between the City of Birmingham, Birmingham Police Department, and Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Journey mentioned that the city would share additional updates on the next steps at an appropriate time.

Pettway stated that to accommodate misdemeanor inmates, the city is pursuing a modification in the charging process. Specifically, the city aims to charge individuals by utilizing the Jefferson County 10th Judicial Court system for their misdemeanor arrests. According to Pettway, this strategy entails obtaining warrants through magistrates in the 10th Judicial Circuit and having cases heard by district court judges in the 10th Judicial Circuit.

The Birmingham police were informed about the new arrangement through a memo. The county will accept individuals for BPD’s 48-hour felony holds and probable cause arrests, according to the memo. Defendants with outstanding city warrants will continue to undergo processing at the city jail.

The memo outlines that all state citations written from January 1, 2024, onward must be sworn to the Jefferson County Magistrate. Officers are instructed to change the court location on the citations from the David J. Vann Courthouse to the Jefferson County Courthouse.

The partnership announcement surprised Jefferson County Commission President Jimmie Stephens, who claimed that Sheriff Pettway had assured him that he wouldn’t accept the city’s inmates. Stephens stated they had discussed the matter, and Pettway had intended to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) the following week, indicating a change of plans.

According to Stephens, the move shifts the burden onto county taxpayers for issues arising from the city of Birmingham’s failure to maintain its jail and fulfill its obligations. Stephens expressed uncertainty about Pettway receiving support from the county commission for this course of action.

Stephens expressed concern that the Jefferson County jail, already 85 percent full, would face increased strain with the addition of misdemeanor city inmates. He criticized the arrangement, suggesting it manipulates the law and establishes a costly precedent for the county.

Stephens worried about the impact on county systems, stating that Birmingham is attempting to house city misdemeanors in the Jefferson County jail by utilizing a state statute to bypass city ordinances. He further raised the question of other nearby cities, such as Bessemer, Fairfield, and Gardendale, potentially following suit. Stephens expressed his disappointment in the city of Birmingham for evading its responsibility to care for its prisoners.