On November 6, 2018, Jefferson County Alabama elected Mark Pettway as its first African-American sheriff. Established in 1819, Jefferson County had never had an African-American elected to this top law enforcement office. After his election, Sheriff Pettway immediately started fulfilling his campaign promises. Partnering with Lawson State Community College and The Dannon Project, he has helped incarcerated inmates (with non-violent crimes) get the opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and stop the “revolving door.” A program called “Renewed for Reentry” is used as alternative sentencing. In October 2019, nineteen members in the first class received their certificates of completion and were placed in jobs before being released from jail.
Partnering with the American Federation of Teachers, “Books Not Bullets” was established. Books were read at schools and given out in communities while bringing mentors into schools and the detention center to help the youth. Aware of the pipeline to prison, Sheriff Pettway knew that without mentors, the pipeline would continue. He has worked diligently with mentors in the community to help bring direction into the lives of young people.
“Bridging the Gap” extended to communities with a plan to prevent crimes by offering job opportunities: “Jobs not Jail.” A job fair was made available to aid those who normally would not show up to a regular job fair with hiring on the spot. Discovering from many potential applicants that they could not get jobs because of their past criminal history, attorneys were contacted to assist in the expungement of their records. With attorney fees waived and opportunities given, many lives and futures have been changed for the better.
Sheriff Pettway made a promise to help Fairfield, Alabama and other western cities that lacked law enforcement presence. In this effort to deter crime, patrol deputies were added to areas causing residents to state seeing more deputies than ever before. With an increase in patrols and higher visibility, citizens naturally feel safer.
Sheriff Pettway made a commitment to training. Completed in January 2022, Jefferson County now has a new state of the art training facility where deputies are trained to deal with individuals with mental illness. A hub to train other agencies in the Northern District on among many things, how to deescalate situations and detect those dealing with mental illness, Sheriff Pettway promises to continue deploying more and better ways to serve the citizens of our area.
In collaboration with the Jefferson County delegation (all who supported the idea) and under Sheriff Pettway’s leadership while working together with JBS Mental Health Authority and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Jefferson County was awarded the Crisis Diversion Center. Instead of being arrested, this center will service those with addictions and mental illness in receiving the help needed. With shorter wait time for intake at the center, law enforcement will be back on their beats sooner. A win-win for the community as a whole.
Sheriff Pettway’s advocacy for education spans into his personal life. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Faulkner University, Montgomery, AL., and is a certified instructor at the Jefferson County Sheriff Apost Training Academy. Sheriff Pettway is a proud husband and father. He and his wife Vanessa have two daughters: Markia and Gabrielle.