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Bessemer jail reopens, easing crowding at JeffCo Jail

By Gary Lloyd

BESSEMER — For the first time since October 2009, the Jefferson County Jail in Bessemer is open.

The jail re-opened Monday. It had been closed after severe budget cuts to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office had faced a 30 percent reduction in the overall operating budget, forcing 200 inmates to the downtown Birmingham jail at the time the Bessemer jail closed.

The jail in downtown Birmingham was built to house 1,000 inmates. Since the Bessemer jail closed, the average daily population has been around 1,300 inmates, said Chief Deputy Randy Christian.

The overcrowding presented an explosive and dangerous atmosphere to deputy personnel assigned to work in the jail,” Christian said. “The overcrowded conditions also prompted a federal lawsuit on behalf of the inmates.”

Since its closure, the facility in Bessemer has been used only as a temporary holding area for inmates who must attend court in the Bessemer Criminal Justice Center. Each day, these inmates were brought to Bessemer from Birmingham and then returned to Birmingham after court.

The sheriff’s office began the process of re-opening the jail in Bessemer on Oct. 1 after receiving funding from the Jefferson County Commission.

Inmates with cases in Bessemer were transferred back to be housed in the Bessemer jail Monday. The first group of 30 inmates were transferred Monday.

“Re-opening the jail will bring relief to that issue and also will make the lawsuit a mute point,” Christian said. “This needed to happen and we commend our commissioners for recognizing the need and finding a way to fund it.”

Contact Gary Lloyd at news@trussvilletribune.com and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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