LIVE: Watch 6:00-8:00am news on WHNT News 19

Decatur City Jail closes, all inmates to be held in Morgan County Jail

MORGAN COUNTY, Ala - Decatur police and Morgan County deputies spent their Wednesday merging.

All Decatur City Jail inmates were moved to the county jail just blocks away.

"Morgan County already housed federal inmates and all of the municipalities with the exception of Decatur," explained Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin. "So now, we will house every inmate throughout the county in this one facility."

People arrested for felonies, such as murder, were always held at the county jail. Those charged with misdemeanors, such as driving under the influence, would be booked into the city jail until they bonded out. The city jail is on the second floor of city hall, above the PD.

At the time of move, there were about two dozen inmates at the city jail; it holds an average of 110.

But the move only transported male inmates, Decatur police had somewhat of a pilot program with the merger already taking place.

"For the last couple of months, the female prisoners we arrest in the city of Decatur have been going there," said Lieutenant Proncey Robertson with Decatur PD.

Now, he said, the merge with the county jail will change the process for officers, who now will go straight to the county jail when booking someone.

"It seems to be the trend through counties to be able to take the liability and the money and resources and pool it together and operate one facility instead of a bunch of smaller ones and then a county jail," said Sheriff Franklin.

The change lines up with the opening of the Morgan County jail expansion.

"The timing was to where we were going to do an addition anyway," said Sheriff Franklin. So we entered into contractual agreement with [the city of Decatur] and would add extra bed space and they would help fund part of that."

The two agencies have been working on the merger for years, coordinating their technology for booking and record keeping. Sheriff Franklin says during the construction period, the city paid $2 million of the $11 million jail expansion project.

The city will pay the county $100,000 a month to house up to 120 inmates. Lt. Robertson says that's less than the police department spent to maintain the city jail. He also says the city would have had to expand their existing jail, which would have cost more than building a new one altogether.

Sheriff Franklin explained that if Decatur police's needs exceed 120, they will pay additional fees.

Between the existing jail and the expansion, officials said it's a better environment for all inmates.

"We have the facilities, we have the medical in place, the kitchen facilities for the feeding of the inmates," said Sheriff Franklin.

The county jail expansion includes three floors, with a capacity of more than 450. The sheriff's office is in the first phase of hiring about two dozen additional correctional officers.