• 73°

Cities want out of the jail business

By By Sherry Digmon
City police chiefs across the county may soon get rid of a major headache if they can work out an agreement to house city inmates in the county detention center.
Sheriff Tim Hawsey made the county Escambia County Commission aware of the proposal at Monday's meeting. Atmore Police Chief Danny McKinley addressed the Atmore City Council Monday evening.
The county's four chiefs n McKinley, Brewton Chief Pat Kelly, Flomaton Chief Bob Hicks and East Brewton Chief Wilson Mallard n offered to pay the county for housing their inmates charged with misdemeanors. The county already houses felony and district court inmates.
Cities are not required to have a jail, but the county is.
Atmore and Brewton offered $10,000 each annually, Flomaton and East Brewton offered $5,000 each.
Hawsey said he is drafting a contract, and that he will bring it back to the commission before any action is taken. He added that the cities want to enter the agreement as soon as possible.
The commissioners were open to the idea.
Commissioners Wiley Tait and David Stokes asked Hawsey make sure the amount offered by the cities is enough to cover costs of housing the inmates and additional staffing.
The proposal appears to be a win-win situation for the cities and the county.
The City of Atmore will realize a savings in liability insurance and eliminate the threat of lawsuits. Two suits are now pending now involving inmates who died in the jail, although both cases have been ruled suicides.
The cost of paying the county probably will not exceed the cost of doing business at the jail. McKinley said he currently spends about $8,000 a year in simply feeding inmates.
Sending inmates to the county will eliminate dispatchers serving double duty. Currently, dispatchers also served as jailers. No personnel are dedicated strictly to jail duty, so McKinley doesn't anticipate losing any personnel.
The county has been ordered by the courts to increase staffing at the detention center. Commission Chairman Larry White said housing city inmates is one way to do that.
Also, the county jail lost revenue when federal marshals changed their contract and started housing federal inmates in the Baldwin County facility. Taking city inmates will fill some, if not all, the empty beds.
Chief McKinley told the Atmore City Council that the proposal is in its infancy. Details have not been worked out about transporting city inmates to the county jail.
The city will continue to get funds from municipal court, whether or not the city operates a jail.
The city will continue to operate a lock-up which will hold inmates until they are transported.