MADISON COUNTY, Ala. – The Madison County Commission is considering two large requests from the Madison County Sheriff. One is to increase funding for the jail, the other is money for the department as a whole.
Officials with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office went in front of the commission during a special meeting this morning to request an additional $2.1 million in jail funding. The other request is for $1.7 million that would go towards adding 10 new deputies, an additional dispatcher, money for vehicles and an increase in salary for current employees.
“It’s costing more to operate the county jail than it ever has in its history,” Sheriff Blake Dorning said in a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Dorning said medical costs for the jail have increased, particularly for inmates who come in under the influence of drugs. Those inmates often end up going to outside medical facilities for treatment, like Huntsville Hospital’s emergency room.
“A lot of those inmates end up going to outside medical services because you … can’t detox everybody the exact same way,” Dorning said. “And some run a greater risk than others, and they have to be sent outside for additional treatment.”
The jail is also housing about 160 more inmates than last year, Dorning said, and the budget wasn’t prepared for an increase in jail population.
Dorning told commissioners overtime has increased by $500,000 and the jail had to open a new another floor of cells because of the influx of inmates.
There are also 18 vacant positions for jail staff, according to Dorning. He said law enforcement in general has had a tough time hiring for open positions.
“We didn’t request any additional jail personnel,” Dorning said. “To be quite honest with you, we can’t recruit them.”
Dorning said his increased budget requests are necessary to deal with the growth in the area.
“It’s just an adjustment to what has been,” he said. “Because our elected leaders, they want us to grow. They want us to be one of the largest cities in the southeast. And with that, there comes a price.”