Overcrowding at county jail not a problem

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 17, 2003

If that inmate through his experience in the corrections system stays at that low level, "more than likely they are going to come back," he said. "They are going to be trouble in the community."

McKinney is optimistic that the efforts and the professionalism of his staff is making a difference. He points at the reduction in inmate booking as one positive sign. The Marengo County Jail booked and released 3,014 inmates in 2000, 2,638 in 2001, 2,458 in 2002 and 1,750 as of September 1 in 2003.

These are inmates the jail sees two or three times a year. Unfortunately, the amount of juvenile (under age 18) inmates has increased over the last few years, McKinney said. Time and maturity are often the cure for the repeat offender, as their jail sentences get longer and longer. "Once they start staying here a while and really start missing the outside, it starts getting their attention."

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It’s hard to realize how big it is by just driving by the building in downtown Linden, but the Marengo County Jail in a modern facility with the capacity to house 126 inmates.

The jail had 54 inmates as of Thursday morning. McKinney said the county had been lucky to have such a small number. However, "in the last six months we’ve probably gotten more in than we’ve had in the last three years."

Overcrowding has not been a problem. "The state in the last six months has done a much better job" removing a backlog of state inmates housed in county jails.

Since McKinney became the administrator in 2000, the highest number of inmates was 109. The new jail opened in 1998, but did not have an administrator until 2000.

The old Marengo County Jail could only handle a population of 52.

When talking about total number of inmates, one has to realize that a certain number of inmates must fit into certain categories. There are spaces dedicated for eight juveniles, 16 females, eight temporary holding cells, and three medical beds. There are actually just 92 beds for adult male prisoners, he said.

When the jail was holding 109, there were inmates sleeping on mattresses on the floor, he said.

The inmates, come from all over the county and are processed through five different courts: Demopolis, Linden county circuit, county district and child support. They are categorized by jail uniform: misdemeanor (orange), felonies (white), work release (blue) and inmate workers, formally known as "trustees" (red).

The misdemeanor inmates are kept together in a dorm like area, "because they are not serious criminals," McKinney said. The felony inmates are kept in either a pre-trail or a sentencing section.

Michael Anthony Landrum, one of the suspects in the recent murders on County Road 44, is being kept by himself in one of two maximum security areas. He is being kept away from population for his own safety. There may be relatives of the victims in the inmate population, McKinney said.

Jeffery Napier, the other suspect in the murders, is being held in the Clarke County Jail.

There are inmates currently in the Marengo jail being held for Sumter and Greene County officials. Inmates have been kept for Choctaw and Clarke Counties in the past.

Among the services the jail provides for inmates are a substance abuse program through West Alabama Mental Health, and a GED program through the Linden City Schools. McKinney is worried that upcoming state budget cuts may knock out both programs.

In fact, there is not currently an instructor for the substance abuse program, he said.