HUNTSVILLE, Ala.(WHNT)-The man charged with cleaning up and clearing out Madison County's overloaded jail and court systems says progress is being made.
Long-time Huntsville attorney Mark McDaniel was assigned to tackle the jail problem after being appointed special advisor on the issue in February by Madison County Chairman Dale Strong. McDaniel told WHNT News 19 that the jail has reduced its inmate roster by 130 people since that time, saving Madison County taxpayers approximately $180,000 per month. McDaniel said the current savings equates to just over $2 million over 12 months, a tally he hopes to double long-term. As of Monday evening, there were 956 inmates listed at the jail.
"I don't think people understand how much money it costs to incarcerate this many people," said McDaniel, who ballparked current per day costs for all inmates at $44,000. "The more money you save in incarcerating people, the more money you have for education, for infrastructure, for recruiting jobs."
McDaniel credits newly implemented diversion programs for the drop, which has taken a large chunk of non-violent offenders out of the mix. McDaniel said many of those defendants would sit behind bars for months on crimes ranging from petty theft to misdemeanor drug offenses due to a backload of cases at the courthouse.
"The more days they [defendants] are in jail, the more money the taxpayers are paying. If you got people sitting in jail waiting on trial or getting in jail waiting to be bonded out, if you have a streamline process where you can get them through quicker, that saves the taxpayers money."
County leaders say the ultimate goal is to reduce the jail's population by approximately 400 inmates.
Sex offenders and those accused of violent crimes are not eligible for the diversion programs that have been put in place, which use techniques like restitution and community service as an alternative to jail time.