The City of Birmingham will now house those arrested on misdemeanor charges in the county jail, according to Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway.
Pettway said that Birmingham officials sought approval to begin using the Jefferson County 10th Judicial Court system for their misdemeanor arrests, which means that country court magistrates will award arrest warrants. County judges will hear cases previously awarded and heard by municipal courts. That way, the City can house those arrested on misdemeanor charges in the county's jail facility instead of the deteriorating city jail facility.
In October, Jefferson County Commission president Jimmie Stephens talked to 1819 News about a potential new jail that could house inmates for municipalities in the Birmingham area. He said there could be one to three facilities, some located on abandoned industrial sites, which could win tax credits from the federal government.
Nevertheless, Stephens insisted that there is "much work to be done" before the county signs off on such a project and criticized Pettway for getting ahead of himself on the project by speaking about it to local press about a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to begin forging a partnership with his department on the jail endeavor.
This followed failed negotiations between Jefferson County and the City of Birmingham over housing inmates currently at the city's jail, which is in poor shape. The price Birmingham offered Jefferson County to house inmates in one of the county jails was only half as much as county officials felt was appropriate.
Several east Jefferson County mayors met later that month to discuss possibilities and concerns about the potential facility.
Pettway released a statement on Friday concerning the situation.
"We established an MOU to outline the process and highlight some operational differences of the County jail," he said. "Jefferson County utilizes a recognizance bond and a signature bond process that allows individuals to be signed out or released on their own recognizance (bonds up to $15,000.00)."
"This is not a long-term solution and is undoubtedly a burden on the county, but this is a desperate situation," the sheriff continued. "I am hopeful that Birmingham can resolve their issues quickly and get onto better footing. Birmingham is an important partner in the fight to improve public safety in Jefferson County."
City of Birmingham director of communications Rick Journey also released a statement on the agreement.
"The City of Birmingham has been committed to an ongoing effort to provide an efficient and effective process for individuals held in the Birmingham City Jail," Journey said. "Our focus is on serving the public, our employees, and individuals placed in our custody. We are thankful to Sheriff Pettway for his collaboration on this next step in an ongoing process. The current agreement is in keeping with state statutes and will in no way weaken public safety in our community. In fact, it strengthens the deep collaboration between the City of Birmingham, Birmingham Police Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. The city will provide additional updates on next steps at the appropriate time."
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