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Birmingham City Jail

425 6th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35205
(205) 254-6369

Interview with Patrick

JM: How long was your sentencing for?
Patrick: Five hudred days for Birmingham city. As for Jefferson county I received a ten year sentence.

JM: Did you spend time in a holding cell after your sentencing? If so, what was that like? If you didn't where did they they take you instead?
Patrick: After sentencing I was taken imediately back to the POD, or general population block where my sentence would start. After a day or two I was moved to a more permenant block as the original block is for pre sentencing or what is refered to as "transit"


Located in Birmingham Alabama's South Titusville neighborhood, this jail is most known for housing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as and inmate in 1963. Although the wing that actually housed Dr. King was demolished in 1986 to make way for a new renovation, much of the jail as it existed back then still stands today. During Dr. King's incarceration in Birmingham City Jail he penned the famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail". At the time the only paper that was available for him to write on was the daily newspaper that he received in his cell, he wrote the entire letter in different segments using the margins of the newspaper. This was written as an open letter in response to the inaction of local white clergy men who claimed to be sympathetic to the plight of the African Americans in the south, but suggested that society defer to to courts to solve the problem. This lead Dr. King to write a counter with some of the most memorable quotes from the civil rights era such as "Injustice anywhere is a threat in justice everywhere". The letter also includes a famous quote famously used in an address by Chief Justice Earl Warren to the University of Cincinnati Law School "Justice too long delayed, is justice denied". 

Birmingham Jail is also the title of a popular country-blues ballad from the 1920's. Guitarist Jimmy Tarlton claims to have written the lyrics to this 1927 hit, while being held in this jail for "moonshining". The song is sung to the tune of the even more popular "Down in the Valley" with the lyrics only being slightly altered to reflect Tarlton's time spent in Birmingham Jail. Since it's first recording in 1927, which sold more than 200,000 copies, it has been re-recorded by several other artists including a convict at Mississippi's Parchman Penitentiary, Roger "Burndown" Garrett who played the song for famed folk musicologists John Lomax and Ruby Terrill in 1939. 

Updated Information 

Birmingham City Jail was closed in 2012 after an agreement was reached with Jefferson County to begin housing inmates at the newly built Jefferson County Jail. Prior to it's closure the Birmingham City Jail provided GED and literacy courses and opted for drug, alcohol and mental health treatment programs over incarceration. 

Visiting Information 

If you are looking to visit someone who was jailed in Birmingham Alabama please contact the Jefferson County Jail, Alabama, for visiting hours and times. 

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