By Robert Carter
North Jefferson News
BESSEMER — The overcrowding situation at the main Jefferson County Jail will get a lot easier today, as the long-shuttered satellite jail in Bessemer will reopen this afternoon.
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office will begin transferring inmates from the main jail in downtown Birmingham to the Bessemer facility, which can hold more than 400 prisoners.
The Bessemer jail stopped housing inmates in 2009, when budget cutbacks forced Sheriff Mike Hale to lay off personnel. Those layoffs left him with insufficient manpower to staff the satellite jail, so he transferred all inmates to the main lockup.
Since then, the Bessemer facility has been used only for holding inmates temporarily during the day while they await court proceedings in the nearby Bessemer Criminal Justice Center, Chief Deputy Randy Christian said. Those inmates returned downtown at the end of each day.
The process of reopening the Bessemer jail began in October, as the Jefferson County Commission renegotiated the lease on the Bessemer Courthouse. The savings on that lease will be used to fund operations at the satellite jail.