The Association of County Commissions of Alabama on Wednesday released a statement applauding Gov. Kay Ivey’s emergency proclamation Tuesday, meant to address the transfer of inmates from county jails to state prison facilities amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The association also calls on the Alabama Department of Corrections to draft a plan to address a backlog of state inmates being held in county jails, something the association says places the burden of the potential for COVID-19 outbreaks on local jails instead of state facilities.
Among the orders in Ivey’s proclamation is a requirement that the Alabama Department of Corrections “develop and implement intake procedures appropriate to the COVID-19 public health emergency” and that county sheriffs and jails maintain custody of state inmates until they can safely be transferred to a state facility under the new intake procedures.
Below is Association of County Commissions of Alabama executive director Sonny Brasfield’s full statement:
“The proclamation issued yesterday by Gov. Kay Ivey focuses a bright light on a crisis that has been flying under the radar for the past 75 days. And we agree with the language of the proclamation, which calls for the Department of Corrections to change its practices.
“Today, there are 3,000 state inmates in county jails waiting on the state to accept their transfer. Some of these inmates have been sitting in county jails since January or even before. The proclamation by Gov. Ivey directs State Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn to develop a plan to accept the state’s prisoners who, today, are in every county of this state.
“On March 20, Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn suspended the intake of state prisoners from county jails and now is accepting only 240 inmates per month – which represents about 30 percent of the normal flow of prisoners into the state system. Counties and sheriffs have been patient and have done their part to support the Corrections Commissioner so that he could have time to find a solution to this crisis. Interestingly, since March 20, the Department has released 900 inmates while accepting less than half that amount from county jails.
“The 3,000 state inmates in county jails today represent about 12 percent of the state’s total inmate population. We agree that backlogging inmates at the county level is unacceptable. The presence of so many state inmates clearly puts every jail at risk of an outbreak of COVID-19, in the same way the state prison system is at risk.
“Sheriffs in Alabama have done a remarkable job of adjusting to the new safety concerns in the face of the state’s decision not to accept inmates as required by Alabama law and the Alabama Supreme Court. We applaud sheriffs’ commitment and their ability to adjust quickly to the challenges they face in operating jails at the local level.
“The proclamation clearly shows the Governor is ready for a change – and so are counties and sheriffs. Counties and sheriffs will continue to be partners in this effort, but everyone involved knows it is time for the Department of Corrections to put a plan on the table.”