State prison officials tour Bessemer county jail

Two state prison officials toured the closed Jefferson County jail in Bessemer on Wednesday. Source: Alan Collins
Two state prison officials toured the closed Jefferson County jail in Bessemer on Wednesday. Source: Alan Collins
Sheriff Mike Hale closed the Jefferson County jail located in Bessemer due to a lack of funding. Source: WBRC video
Sheriff Mike Hale closed the Jefferson County jail located in Bessemer due to a lack of funding. Source: WBRC video

BESSEMER, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County officials made a big sales pitch Wednesday to two representatives of the Alabama Department of Corrections.

The two prison officials toured the closed Jefferson County jail in Bessemer.

"Obviously it's not secret. It's well known the Department of Corrections is overcrowded at our women's facility as well as our men's facilities," Jeffrey Williams, Deputy Commissioner of Corrections, said.

Tutwiler Correctional Facility in Wetumpka is facing overcrowded conditions for female inmates. Jefferson County Commissioners would like the state to house up to 200 female prisoners on the third floor of the expanded jail.

McCalla Representative Allen Farley, a retired officer with the sheriff's office, has been trying to convince the corrections department to relocate the inmates to Bessemer.

"Put people back to work. Let's open up this facility backup. Put county officials back to work. Put some state people back to work. Take care of the overcrowding at Tutwiler. Take care of the overcrowding at the Birmingham jail," Farley said.

Sheriff Mike Hale closed the Bessemer jail because of a shortage of funding from Jefferson County. The closing led to overcrowding at the Birmingham county jail.

The sheriff's office would need about $4 million a year to fund about 80 new deputies to reopen Bessemer. Commission President David Carrington said additional funds have to be found.

"I'm opposed to opening the jail on one-time or short-term monies. Got to be substantial. We have to identify a funding source for the county," Carrington said.

The Jefferson County Commission is also discussing possible contracts with the City of Birmingham and the federal government.

Wednesday, Governor Bentley said his prison commissioner is always looking for ways to end overcrowding.

"If we have facilities available in the state that are empty we need to look at those," Bentley said.

The two corrections officials said they left impressed with the Bessemer jail with its modern equipment and setup.

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