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Sheriff Valenza fuming after prisoner attacks deputy

He blames overcrowding caused because state officials have refused to remove their inmates from the county jail.
Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 10:05 AM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) -Houston County Sheriff Donald Valenza vented his overwhelming frustration to Alabama prison officials with whom he met on Monday.

What has the sheriff angry is 120 felons stuck in the county jail who should have been taken to prison long ago. The Alabama Department of Corrections generally has 30 days to pick up inmates after their convictions.

However, due to COVID, only a limited number can enter the prison system, and this is creating a backlog at county jails in Alabama.

Sheriff Valenza said ADOC promised to remove those who had been quarantined for two weeks, but the sheriff claims prison officials have not honored their commitment.

“I quarantined 50 (inmates) for over a month and they still did not take them. Now, they are saying if we give them the COVID shots they will take them,” Valenza told News 4.

But, despite 35 state inmates receiving vaccinations, only six have been whisked to state prisons.

One of those state prisoners recently attacked a deputy, injuring him so badly his return to duty is in jeopardy, Valenza said.

ADOC spokesperson Kristi Simpson, in an email to News 4, pointed out that the number of inmates accepted is increasing due to expansion of isolation areas.

“Maintaining the safety, security, and well-being of our overall system has been and will remain the ADOC’s highest priority, and we will continue to make all operational decisions based on the best available science, data, and recommendations from relevant experts,” Ms. Simpson said.

However, with his jail about 70 inmates over capacity, Valenza asked state lawmakers to intervene. Representative Paul Lee (R-Dothan) and State Senator Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) obliged and lobbied prison officials.

“There will be a plan presented to get prisoners out of the county jails at least to pre-COVID numbers,” Lee told News 4.

The sheriff, who met with ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn and the assistant commissioner Monday, praised Chesteen and Lee for their efforts.

“I feel good (about what I heard),” Valenza said in a text message to News 4.

Ken Curtis is an investigative and crime reporter whose broadcasting career spans more than 50 years. Reach him at ken@wtvy.com

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