Jefferson Co. Jail in Bessemer reopening after four years of budget cuts

Jefferson County Jail in Bessemer (Source: WBRC video)
Jefferson County Jail in Bessemer (Source: WBRC video)

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AL (WBRC) - The Jefferson County Jail in Bessemer will reopen Monday, Dec. 16, more than four years after being closed due to a 30 percent budget cut.

The jail was closed in 2009 and 200 inmates were moved to the Jefferson County Jail in Birmingham, causing what the sheriff's office described as an "explosive and dangerous atmosphere to deputy personnel assigned to work in the jail."

"I toured the jail downtown," Jefferson Co. Commissioner Sandra Little Brown said. "I saw inhumane conditions. I saw four or five men in two-men cells. I saw mats on the floor in the day room."

Since the Bessemer jail was closed to normal operations, the facility has been used as a temporary holding area for inmates facing court in the Bessemer Criminal Justice Center. Those inmates are transferred back to Birmingham daily.

Jefferson Co. Sheriff Mike Hale and the county have been involved in a federal lawsuit because of the overcrowding. Commissioners have set aside $2.4 million to hire 42 deputies to man the jail.

Bessemer Police Chief Nathaniel Rutledge says he is happy to see the jail re-open so he won't have to transport prisoners to Birmingham any more.

"Logistically it helps us tremendously," he said. "We are able to bring our own inmates to our city limits as opposed to taking them all the way to Birmingham which ties up manpower and keeps boots off the street."

The first group of 30 inmates will be transferred Monday afternoon.

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