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Settlement in condition Suit Challenging Birmingham Jail

A settlement agreement was reached in a class action lawsuit concerning the conditions of confinement in Alabama’s Birmingham jail.  The suit was filed in 2011 and was the subject of several PLN reports. 

The April 15, 2014, settlement required 100 pre-trial detainees be transferred to the Bessemer Jail by February 1, 2014.  Sheriff Mike Hale long advocated for the Bessemer Jail to be reopened to solve the problems he acknowledged at the Birmingham Jail.

“We are very pleased to get this put to bed,” said Jefferson County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Rundy Christian.  ‘We have said all along that reopening the Bessemer Jail would resolve the issues and that’s what happened.”

Budget cuts forced the shuttering in 2009 of the Bessemer Jail, resulting in overcrowding at the Birmingham Jail.  Officials did not delay in moving detainees to the Bessemer Jail, for shortly after its reopening it had moved 225 detainees.

The settlement permits only two detainees per cell, but for short times three detainees may be in a cell when classification and jail design requirements force decisions on housing.  It also called for hiring 40 more guards and set staffing levels of 20 deputies at the Bessemer Jail and 100 deputies at the Birmingham Jail.

Also, the settlement required recreational activities, maintenance of the facility, the provision of “clean linens and laundry on a regular basis,” and toothbrushes and toothpaste for detainees.

Class counsel was awarded $135,000 in attorney fees and costs.  The court oversaw the implementation of the settlement until January 1, 2016.  See: Mason v. Hale, USDC, N.D. Alabama, Case No. 2:11-cv-03155.

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Related legal case

Mason v. Hale