Legal Battle Looms as Birmingham City Jail Files Lawsuit Against Jefferson County Sheriff

Birmingham, Alabama – A lawsuit has been filed against Jefferson County Sheriff Mark Pettway following a contentious situation involving the Birmingham City Jail. According to court documents, several individuals arrested by Birmingham police officers for on-sight violations were turned away from the Jefferson County Jail in October 2023. The arresting officers were informed that Sheriff Pettway had implemented a policy only accepting inmates with a warrant issued by a Jefferson County magistrate.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Chief of Police Scott Thurmond engaged in conversations with Sheriff Pettway, ultimately confirming the restrictive policy. However, after continued discussions through December, Sheriff Pettway eventually conceded that he was required to admit those committed for on-sight violations of state law. Consequently, an agreement was reached on December 19 between the city and Sheriff Pettway, stipulating that on-sight arrestees would be accepted as county inmates starting January 1.

However, less than two weeks later, Sheriff Pettway informed Chief Thurmond that the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office would no longer accept these arrestees. It was revealed that the sheriff’s office had been improperly entering Birmingham Police Department warrants under the FBI-assigned Originating Agency Identifier, violating both state and federal regulations. To resolve the issue, a form from ALEA needed to be signed by all parties involved, but Sheriff Pettway has yet to sign it.

The city has now taken legal action in the hopes of redefining the responsibilities of Sheriff Pettway and the Birmingham Police Department, as outlined in their December agreement. The lawsuit seeks to compel Sheriff Pettway to sign the ALEA form and resume the acceptance of arrestees into the Jefferson County Jail. However, a hearing date has not yet been set.

This lawsuit highlights the ongoing tension between the city and county law enforcement agencies and raises questions about the appropriate handling of on-sight violations. The refusal to admit arrestees without a warrant has caused complications and potentially compromised public safety. It remains to be seen how this legal dispute will be resolved and if it will lead to changes in policy or procedures regarding the acceptance of inmates into the jail.