PRESS RELEASE: Ala. County Commissions Association Releases Research Publication Detailing “Alabama’s Unresolved Inmate Crisis”

  • Published: December 5, 2019

    December 5, 2019

    For more information, contact Abby Fitzpatrick, Director of Communication and Engagement, at 256-496-0191.


    Report reveals impact of 2015 Prison Reform Act on county jails, budgets

    Auburn—The cost of Alabama’s 2015 prison reform legislation has left its mark on county commission budgets in every corner of the state, a new report shows.

    “Alabama’s Unresolved Inmate Crisis,” a new research publication by the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, highlights the staggering growth of State inmates in county jails over the past five years and the annual price tag that is challenging local officials to balance the unexpected costs. The report was released this week as county officials prepare for the 2020 regular session at the Association’s annual Legislative Conference in Auburn.

    “In 2015, counties and sheriffs encouraged state leaders to move slowly and to consider the unintended impact that significant sentencing and parole reform could have on local budgets,” said ACCA Executive Director Sonny Brasfield. “In the years that have followed, our fears have been confirmed.”

    Data collected from State agencies and a survey of all 67 county budgets shows the presence of State inmates in county jails has almost tripled since 2014. In 2014, a total of 1,990 State inmates were housed in county jails. With the 2015 changes to felony sentencing laws and enforcement procedures for parole and probation violators, counties housed almost 8,000 state inmates in 2018, according to the report.

    “As the legislative session nears, counties must seek relief from these growing costs,” Brasfield said, “because the solution to the State’s prison crisis cannot again be to push more inmates down to the local level.

    “It would be a serious mistake to push for State solutions without addressing the crisis that now exists at the local level.”

    In addition to the cost of housing the inmates, Brasfield points to escalating medical costs, a shortage of qualified employees and a growing number of lawsuits against county governments as reasons for increased county expenses. The cost of operating the jail and law enforcement at the county level has increased by some $64 million since 2014, the report shows.

    “This increase is more than twice the rate of inflation,” Brasfield explained. “Certainly, counties want to be a partner in this year’s efforts to address the condition of the State prison system. At the same time, we believe the facts are clear — Alabama must revisit the reforms of 2015 and provide relief to county budgets that have been crippled by the growth of State inmates.”

    The Association of County Commissions of Alabama is a statewide organization speaking for all 67 counties with ONE voice. It promotes improved county government services in Alabama, offers educational programs for county officials and their staff members, administers insurance programs for county governments and employees, offers legal advice, and represents the interests of county government before state and federal organizations and agencies.


    Download “Alabama’s Unresolved Inmate Crisis” research publication here.