Conecuh jail strike hits home

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 3, 2003

The situation in Conecuh County where jailers are on strike demanding better pay has affected some residents in Covington County - not employment wise - but instead as a prohibitive factor in visiting loved ones.

According to the Mobile Register, 15 jailers and dispatchers walked off their jobs Friday, August 1, after county commission officials failed to grant a pay raise of an additional $2 an hour, and a 10 percent annual cost-of-living raise. According to published reports, the jailers' starting salary is $6.88 an hour.

The effect on Covington County, however, is the fact that approximately 20 inmates are being housed in the Conecuh County Jail, and now, according to Corporal Scott Fowler of the Conecuh County Sheriff's Department, those inmates can't have visitors Š at least until the striking jailer situation is resolved.

"We have halted inmate visitation for now," Cpl. Fowler said. "We simply don't have the staff to allow for a visitation schedule. The sign out front says 'Visitation has been suspended until further notice,' but we are going to try and have a visitation this coming Saturday. We just don't know yet."

Captain Jerry Edgar of the Covington County Sheriff's Department said he understands the inconvenience that is being placed on family members wishing to visit their loved ones incarcerated in Conecuh County.

"I can understand the family members feeling upset about not being able to visit with their loved one," Captain Edgar said. "Currently, Conecuh County is housing about 20 inmates for Covington County Š but we are also housing inmates for them."

Edgar said county jails housing inmates for other counties is a common thing in Alabama.

"We all try to help each other out as much as we can," he said. "Our jail is overcrowded, and theirs is 'under crowded.' We have the capacity to house more female inmates Š so they sent us some females and we were able to send them some male inmates."

As for the inmates that are sent to other jails, Edgar said it's usually not inmates deemed as a problem.

"We don't send other counties our inmates that could be a potential problem, or a medical case," he said. "And they don't send us inmates like that either."

As for complaints about inmates being transferred to other jails, Edgar said he has heard no complaints from the inmates, or their relatives.

"We haven't received any complaints from any of the inmates," he said. "Most of the prisoners don't mind being transferred. They're happy with the less crowded conditions. We haven't really received any complaints from their family members either. Usually, they're happy with the less crowded conditions as well."

The Star-News, has received some complaints though from some family members of inmates housed in the Conecuh County Jail, and Captain Edgar said he would be more than willing to sit down and discuss the situation with concerned family members over the safety of their loved one.

"I understand a family member could be upset they're not able to visit, and I would be glad to talk with them. But, I also understand the sheriff in Conecuh County can't do anything about it, and he is supporting his jail workers. Some people don't understand the stress that goes along with working in a jail Š and we're very fortunate in Covington County to have workers who are dedicated, and an understanding county commission."