Jefferson Co. Jail overcrowding puts deputies in danger - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Jefferson Co. Jail overcrowding puts deputies in danger

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JEFFERSON COUNTY - AL -

 

Jefferson County's bankruptcy could mean a jail crisis. A dropping number of deputies means decreasing security with inmate population rising at the county jail.

The first thing Captain Ron Eddings told us, is "this is a dangerous place." Because of the lack of funding in Jefferson County, the deputies who are left are working 12 hour shifts for thousands of dollars less than they could be making.  We went inside the jail to see what it's like behind the bars.

"The inmates, they're living in conditions that are against every federal court mandate that has come out in corrections," Captain Ron Eddings, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said. "We're currently under two federal lawsuits now because of conditions within this jail."

Captain Ron Eddings says, since the Bessemer jail closed in 2009, the growing concern is safety: safety for the inmates and the guards trying to protect them. 

"We have lost 53 staff and it has endangered those who are here remaining with the county because the odds are more against them and due to the overcrowding, the atmosphere is more tense upstairs," Eddings said.

So he took us upstairs, to see it firsthand.

"No one has a lot of sympathy for people in jail," Eddings said. "The public has the tendency to say, well, they deserve it.  That's if you were in prison and you have been found guilty. The difference in a jail is, they haven't been found guilty."

Almost 400 inmates sleep on the floor. The jail is built to house a maximum of 1,044 as of tonight, 1371 are on the books.

"Help us, that's all I got to say, just help us!" one inmate told us. 

"We ran out of clothing because of the number of inmates we have," Eddings said.

"We need somebody to do something out this," an inmate told us. "It's really inhumane how they have us living in here. They're packing us in cells the size of a small bathroom."

"We've got a lot of people sleeping on the floor and we get locked down a lot," another inmate said. "Tension is running high, you know?"

That high tension, led to a few injuries. One deputy, even had an eye gouged out.

"The deputies danger and the level of risk they endure on a day to day basis has tripled," Eddings said.

The commission's decision to close inpatient care at Cooper Green will also have a direct impact on inmates. Cooper Green was designed with several rooms built especially for safely caring for inmates. If they have to go to another area hospital, three deputies will have to accompany them temporarily reducing jail staffing. Captain Eddings says the only real help for the jail comes from they commission, but because of the bankruptcy, the money to help is simply not there.

 

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