Local Attorney Tasked With Unclogging Court, Jail Systems

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-A courthouse that’s clogged with cases, and a jail that’s crowded. Madison County leaders say that costly scenario just doesn’t cut it, and now one of north Alabama’s most experienced attorneys has been tasked with cleaning up and clearing out the overloaded system.

County Chairman Dale Strong appointed long-time lawyer Mark McDaniel to the post of special advisor on Thursday, designating him the point-man for unclogging one of the state’s most overburdened court and jail systems.

McDaniel will immediately begin conducting a review of court system operations in Madison County, with the goal of moving cases through faster in order to save taxpayers money. A shortage of personnel has caused cases to pile up at the courthouse, creating a domino effect at the nearby jail which is now near capacity. County leaders told WHNT News 19 that they’re currently spending about $44,000 per day just to feed and house inmates, a growing chunk of the county’s overall budget.

“It’s an honor to do this,” said McDaniel. “I think the taxpayers and citizens of Madison County would rather have their money spent on teachers and roads as opposed to other things…If there’s efforts of things you can do to streamline the criminal justice system to be of benefit to taxpayers, then that’s what we want to do.”

McDaniel said he would consult with officials from both the legal and law enforcement realms, while also reviewing operations in other counties that have dealt with similar challenges. He’s expected to present a list of recommendations to Chairman Strong within the next few months, who said picking McDaniel was a no-brainer.

“I believe we’ve got to look at every avenue to save money, and this is a step in the right direction,” said Strong. “We need someone that has the heartbeat of Madison County, someone that understands the process of this court system, but also the benefits of a good judicial system.”

Mark McDaniel announced that he would not take a salary for his new role. County leaders said one of the main goals of the review is to find a way to reduce the jail’s population by 400 inmates, which would save roughly $5 million annually.