Local officials concerned about State’s prison reform bill

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) -- One possible solution to the state's prison overcrowding is causing some concern in local sheriff's offices. The prison reform bill is slated to go into  effect next year, and some local sheriffs are concerned about the impact the measure could have on their departments and jails.

DeKalb County Sheriff Jimmy Harris is one of those, adding the measure could affect the county itself as well as the jail. "We're going to get the bad end of this deal," he says.

Part of the bill creates a new  "Class D" felony classification. With that the bill  aims to steer those  non-violent offenders out of the overcrowded state prisons, and provides a layout for alternatives.

One avenue could potentially transfer some inmates to county jails.

Sheriff Harris says with minimal funding to house and feed those inmates, any medical costs would fall back locally. "We're going to have to pay for all of that. The county has to pay for all of that," he says, in regard to the medical costs.

Harris worries the potential population increase will leave minimal room for the county's offenders. Several come from cities and towns. "A lot of cities have shut their jails down. They have nowhere to put them now," Sheriff Harris explains.

The sheriff says staffing issues are a concern as well.

State officials say the prisons are overcrowded to the point that federal intervention is a threat, which they say would have a substantial impact on taxpayers.

County leaders say the bill's potential implications on the county -- like the inmates' medical costs --  are a concern and will be addressed if they come up.

In neighboring Jackson County, the sheriff's office says it's concerned the bill could cause costs to increase, which would fall back on the county.

State officials say the bill was scrutinized by multiple entities like district attorney's offices, county commission officials, and sheriffs from across the state.

The bill is expected to go into effect at the end of January, provided the funding is there.

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