MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - A long and relatively emotional county commission meeting brought to the forefront an issue many say is long overdue for attention: leadership at the Madison County Jail.
Led by Bob Harrison, local pastors and concerned citizens went before the commission to call for change. The county's contract with the chief jail administrator, Steven Morrison, expired October 11, and on the agenda for the meeting was discussion regarding his employment.
"The county commission was prepared to vote down the recommendation of the contract approval, thats why it was withdrawn," said Commissioner Harrison. "It's obvious, [with] the kinds of problems we have, lawsuits that we have, EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) complaints, claims that we have, that something isn't working."
"I don't read about these types of cases in Limestone County every week," said Commissioner Steve Haraway. "I don't hear about them at these other jails in the surrounding community. So what is it we're doing wrong?"
Among the people who went before the commission, Terry Rice, the mother of inmate Haraesheo Rice. She said her son is mentally ill and had been beaten by officers and hospitalized since his arrest in May.
There was a rally outside the jail in August about the incident.
"I would like to see Chief Morrison resign," said Rice. "He couldve easily stopped a lot of it that went on, because of that, it changes my whole life."
She says she will likely have to stop working because medical personnel tells her that Haraesheo will need medical assistance for the rest of his life.
Sheriff Blake Dorning also went before the commission, giving a long passionate speech on the brutal truth about the inner workings of a jail.
"The jail is a tough, tough place," the sheriff said. "Why would you think people are incarcerated and put in jail?" He went on to mention recent run-ins between officers and inmates similar to the one involving Rice.
"[An inmate] defecated into a carton that he was given milk [in] that morning, and he throws it at [officers]," he recalled. "We have people over there who will literally kill you for no reason because they have already demonstrated that before and they have killed in our community. Very violent people."
He emphasized that he does all he can with limited resources.
"There's a lot of people put in jail that shouldn't be in jail, but we have nowhere else to go with them," said Commissioner Roger Jones. "We are failing the mentally ill. They're victims, their families are victims. We do need to address this situation."
An emotional Bob Harrison thanked the commission for taking the community complaints seriously, and Terry Rice agreed that she feels good will come from the hour long discussion.
"When people are incarcerated, we know that they did something [to go to jail], but to be treated like my son was treated and the medical records I picked up yesterday, it really broke my heart to know the extent of the treatment he was given while he was in the Madison County Jail," she said.
Rice has an ongoing case with the jail, as does a couple of other inmates and inmate deaths related to the facility.