Jefferson County officials discuss plan to reopen Bessemer Jail - WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

Jefferson County officials discuss plan to reopen Bessemer Jail

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The Jefferson County Jail in Bessemer has been closed since 2009. But now, county leaders are in talks with the Alabama Department of Corrections to develop a plan that would reopen the jail.

The proposed plan would transfer inmates from the Julia Tutwiler Women's Prison in Wetumpka, and house them in the jail in Bessemer. This plan would not only reopen the Bessemer jail, but it would help ease the problems at the Tutwiler prison.

Julia Tutwiler Women's Prison in Wetumpka was built in the 1940's. It was originally built to house 400 inmates. There are currently around 700 women incarcerated there.

The Jefferson County Jail in Bessemer was built to hold 400 inmates; 200 on the 2nd floor and 200 on the 3rd floor. In the plan proposed to Department of Correction officials, minimum security inmates from the Tutwiler prison would be held on the 3rd floor.

State Representative Allen Farley of Jefferson County, said this plan would be beneficial for the state and the county.

"What I'm hoping is this could be a bridge to help the state where they won't have to build a new facility. And help the county where they could open up a county facility" explained Farley.

 Wednesday, Department of Correction officials joined leaders in Jefferson County for a tour of the facility in Bessemer. Jeffery Williams, Deputy Commissioner with the Alabama Department of Correction, said he liked what he saw, but there are still some concerns.

Williams said, "Keep in mind that this is a jail and it's technically built for short term incarceration. Prisons are built for long-term incarceration."

Despite the reservations, Williams said they will continue to discuss this option as a temporary fix for the overcrowding at Tutwiler prison.

Meanwhile, Jefferson County Commissioners are continuing to search for options that would reopen the jail in Bessemer.

Jefferson County Commissioner Jimmie Stephens said regardless of the option they choose, he thinks the jail in Bessemer needs to reopen.

"We're looking at several different alternatives," explained Stephens. "But, all of them lead to the same conclusion: that we need to open the Bessemer jail."

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