JeffCo courts considering options for saving money

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County presiding judge Scott Vowell says he has seen funding problems in the past but nothing like what he is seeing now. "It threatens us."

Vowell says some of the criminal, civil and domestic courts in Birmingham may have to be combined to save money and to share security.  Vowell is also asking his judges to see if some non-violent criminals could be released on bond as a way to relieve jail overcrowding. "Look at each case when a person is confined to the county jail where it's appropriate to consider allowing that person to be released on bond."

Sheriff Mike Hale voiced some concern about any early release, even if it involves non-violent criminals. "You are letting folks who tend to commit other crimes again. We believe as law enforcement officers will be back in jail in two or three weeks."

Hale's fear is there would be a massive release of criminals who would not go through the county's normal screening procedure.

Judge Vowell assured Hale that would not be the case. "Misinterpretation on what we said. We would be letting people out of jail on a wholesale basis. That's not true."

Meanwhile, the commission will vote next week to lay off 207 county workers who are not protected by the personnel board - one way to save millions of dollars. "Well it's like Scarlett O'Hara. We will worry about tomorrow, tomorrow. We got to do what we got to do today." says Commissioner Jim Carns.