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Deadline Set for Removing Inmates

May 19, 2001

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) _ A judge gave corrections officials 30 days to remove a backlog of nearly 2,000 state prisoners from county jails, a move likely to burden an already-crowded state prison system.

In his ruling Friday, Montgomery County Circuit Judge William Shashy said he is aware that moving the inmates would create a strain on the Department of Corrections. But he said the state is in ``far better position to handle these state inmates than the county jails.″

Alabama’s prison system is among the most crowded in the nation. The situation came to a head earlier this month when sheriffs in two counties delivered more than 200 inmates unannounced to two state prisons.

An Alabama law and 1992 court order require state prisoners to be removed from county jails within 30 days of being sentenced. But as of May 4, 1,964 state inmates were in county jails past the 30-day order.

The judge said the state had given substantial evidence of the potential harm if forced to take all the state inmates held in county jails past the order at one time. But he said there was evidence of ``actual harm being caused by the presence of state inmates in county jails.″

A lawyer said the ruling indicates state officials should work fast to resolve the situation.

``The Alabama Legislature had better grab hold of this matter and work on a resolution immediately or this state is going to be in utter chaos,″ said Tommy Gallion, who represented Montgomery County in a prison crowding lawsuit. ``I do not think that the public wants violent criminals walking its streets.″

The governor said he hopes Shashy’s ruling will provide the impetus needed for the state to find a solution to the prison overcrowding problem.

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