Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn presented the ADOC fiscal year 2020 budget request to an Alabama joint House and Senate budget committee meeting in Montgomery.
“The Department of Corrections is undergoing unprecedented change,” Dunn said. The ADOC is, “Transforming the department into the most respected and trusted law enforcement agency in the state.”
Dunn told the legislature that the department incarcerates 20,000 inmates in 26 facilities and oversees 3,500 persons in community corrections.
“The 2018 occupancy rate dropped to just 163 percent of capacity continuing a five-year trend of decreasing overcrowding,” Dunn said. The goal is to get down to 145 percent capacity.
Dunn said that this is being accomplished through sentencing reform. While the prison population has gotten smaller the population has gotten much more violent.
Dunn said that the department is having to deal with deteriorating infrastructure. ADOC has retained two independent companies to estimate the proper staffing levels for the prison system.
Dunn said that in 2017 the governor approached him asking him to develop a plan that will provide long term fixes to a generational problem. ADOC is currently working on preparing an architectural plan to develop new facilities that will be safer for both inmates and officers.
After a dark past, Tutwiler prison for women, “is now recognized as a national model for the incarceration of women,” Dunn said.
Dunn said that prisoner can earn a degree from Auburn University while they are incarcerated free of charge. Twenty-two students are in their third year. Other students have gotten credentials from a theological seminary and the minister to other inmates. 700 inmates have earned certificates through the two-year college system.
Dunn said that staffing is a challenge.
“We are down to 50 percent or lower staffing,” Dunn said. “This is related to an increase in the level of violence.” Gang activity, extortion, contra-ban, are all contributing factors to the violence.
Ten inmates were murdered in Alabama prisons in 2018.
“We have documented thoroughly the deterioration of the department’s infrastructure,” Dunn said. “We have identified several facilities that have out used their service life.”
Dunn says that he has set three goals: increased staffing; provide better healthcare; and design criteria to build a safer system. To do this, Dunn requested $519 million from the 2020 state general fund (SGF) budget. That is a $42 million increase from 2019.
Dunn said that the additional funds are needed to provide: merit raises, a pay raise for security staff, plans to hire 500 new corrections officers, a new health care contract, hire twenty new health and mental health staff, and replace aging vehicles.
State Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville) asked if the prisons were supposed to phone nearby residents when a prisoner escaped, but he lives near the ADOC prison in St. Clair County. He found out about a recent escape when officers were searching his horse trailer.
Dunn said that the system does phone residents and that members of the media get sent press releases whenever there is an escape. Dunn acknowledge that there was a system breakdown in the incident affecting Senator McClendon and his family.
State Representative Napoleon Bracy (D-Mobile) said that he remembered going to meetings on prison reform, “Are y’all doing your own prison reform without us?”
“We look at this as a very holistic problem,” Dunn said. “We absolutely need and ask for the help of the legislature to address the staffing levels at our facilities. On infrastructure the governor has asked me to present options. The governor has asked for options and we are taking steps to present her with that.”
Speaking in support of the proposed pay raise, State Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster) said that Department of Corrections officers, “Is the most dangerous law enforcement job out there. You can not raise the number of officers we need without raising the compensation.”
“We have had a 15 percent drop in our prison population to 163 percent of capacity,” Dunn said on efforts to reduce prison overcrowding. “We were at 200 percent. We are still vastly over populated and vastly under staffed.”
Dunn was asked about how the pay compared to other southeastern states.
“We are in the middle to top third,” Dunn replied. “That is not who we are competing with. I have very few employees who come from out of state to work in our prisons. It is difficult to recruit people when unemployment is at 3.6 percent.”
A legislator asked, “How many correction employees do you have now?”
“As of October 1 we had 2073 and 1000 are security officers.”
Dunn was asked about why that ADOC has not purchased the private prison in Perry County that is for sale when the legislature provided a $4.7 million earmark in the budget to do so.
“We have not been able to come to a mutually acceptable purchasing price,” Dunn replied. The facility has a capacity for seven hundred inmates.
State Representative Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs) asked if there were ongoing negotiations.
“I am not aware of any negotiations,” Dunn said.
When asked why? Dunn replied that his department is not equipped to do negotiations. The Department of Finance is handling it.
Sen. Ward said, “Ten years ago we inquired about buying that facility. Ten years ago the asking price was $55 million. Now it is down to $4.7 million so that is quite a bargain.”
Ward said that facility had been built to house federal ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detainees and the state had leased it at one time.
Rep. Mooney asked what the difference in price was?
“They were asking $15 million. We are authorized to only offer $4.7 million,” Dunn replied.
Mooney said that the $4,7 million was only intended to be the down payment, not the full price.
Dunn said that it is difficult to hire corrections officers in Perry County and that most of the prisoners have to be transported outside of the prison for medical care and there is no close by facility.
The state is currently being sued in federal court on allegations that the prisons are overcrowded, understaffed, and that the prisoner are not receiving adequate healthcare and mental healthcare.
Alabama has two budgets: education and the state general fund (SGF). ADOC is the second most expensive item in the general fund, followed by Alabama Medicaid. Medicaid cost the state $755 million this year; while ADOC cost the SGF $477 million.
Governor announces the Alabama STEM Council
Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday announced that she has signed Executive Order No. 721 establishing the Alabama STEM Council. The council will advise state leadership on ways to improve STEM-related education, career awareness and workforce development opportunities across the state.
“Alabama has continued to grow into an advanced manufacturing, aerospace engineering and cybertechnology center of excellence and as a result, the demand for qualified labor in these sectors has skyrocketed,” Ivey said. “The Alabama STEM Council will play a vital role in ensuring that our state’s future leaders have the opportunity to learn STEM-based skills that will help them transition into successful career pathways upon graduation.”
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics workers play a key role in the sustained growth and stability of Alabama’s economy. As companies continue to relocate or expand in Alabama, the state must develop an adept workforce that is prepared to adequately meet growing labor demands.
Ivey has appointed Dr. Neil Lamb, vice president for educational outreach at HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, as chairman of the council.
“Our great state is home to several quality STEM-focused education and workforce initiatives. However, we lack a common system to weave these initiatives together into a network that reaches all learners across the state and expands the workforce pipeline,” Lamb said. “Establishing a statewide Council was a key recommendation from the Governor’s Advisory Council on Excellence on STEM, and I am thrilled to see that recommendation become reality through the Alabama STEM Council.”
State Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, who chairs the House Education Policy Committee, sponsored a bill in the 2020 Regular Legislative Session that sought to create the Alabama STEM Council as an independent state entity within the Alabama Department of Commerce. Although HB293 passed in the house with unanimous consent, it failed to advance in the Alabama Senate due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m extremely pleased the governor is taking the lead with the Executive Order to form the STEM Council,” Collins said. “Having the math and science experts from Alabama set high quality standards and guiding student growth in achievement will make a positive difference. Thank you, Governor Ivey, for prioritizing education!”
Deputy Commerce Secretary Ed Castile, who also serves as the director of the Alabama Industrial Development Training Agency, has played a substantial role in the development of the council.
“The state of Alabama is rapidly evolving in science and technology with new job opportunities developing daily that require a STEM education as a basic foundation. So, STEM education is rapidly becoming the new ‘basic education’ that Alabama jobs require,” Castile said. “With new tech companies developing, manufacturing moving to digital ‘smart factories’ and numerous job opportunities that support these businesses, we must have a workforce that will meet the demands. The STEM Council will be crucial in working with K-12 education as they develop their STEM programs to align with Community Colleges and Universities to assist students move along the STEM pathways needed by our developing businesses. We, in the Department of Commerce are excited to assist with administrative support of the STEM Council and will be a natural link to the business and commerce of our state.”
The council will hold an initial organizational meeting within 90 days after the issuance of this order.
Members of the council include:
- Dr. Neil Lamb, Vice President for Educational Outreach, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology
- Dr. Charles Nash, University of Alabama System
- Terry Burkle, Baldwin County Education Foundation
- Dawn Morrison, Alabama State Department of Education
- Charisse Stokes, Montgomery Chamber of Commerce
- Dr. Vicky Karolewics, President, Wallace State Community College
- Sheila Holt, AMSTI Director, University of Alabama in Huntsville
- Liz Huntley, Lightfoot, Franklin & White
- RaSheda Workman, Stillman College
- Dr. Eric Mackey, State Superintendent of Education
- Dr. Barbara Cooper, Secretary, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education
- Jimmy Baker, Chancellor, Alabama Community College System
- Dr. Jim Purcell, Executive Director, Alabama Commission on Higher Education
- Fitzgerald Washington, Secretary, Alabama Department of Labor
- Greg Canfield, Secretary, Alabama Department of Commerce
- Tim McCartney, Chairman, Alabama Workforce Council
- George Clark, President, Manufacture Alabama
- Dr. Ken Tucker, President, University of West Alabama
- Dr. Kathryn Lanier, STEM Education Outreach Director, Southern Research
- Dr. Tina Miller-Way, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
- Amy Templeton, President and CEO, McWane Science Center
- Kay Taylor, Director of Education, U.S. Space and Rocket Center
- Dr. Mary Lou Ewald, Director of Outreach, Auburn University College of Sciences and Mathematics
- Paul Morin, Alabama SMART Foundation
- Dr. Adreinne Starks, Founder and CEO, STREAM Innovations
- Dr. Calvin Briggs, Founder and Director, Southern Center for Broadening Participation in STEM
- Josh Laney, Director, Alabama Office of Apprenticeship
- Keith Phillips, Executive Director, Alabama Technology Network
- Jimmy Hull, Career and Technical Education Director, Alabama State Department of Education
- Sean Stevens, Career Coach, Alabama State Department of Education
- Tina Watts, Community Investor, The Boeing Company
- Daryl Taylor, Vice President and General Manager, Airbus America
- K-Rob Thomas, Power Delivery General Manager, Alabama Power
- Dr. Lee Meadows, Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Alabama at Birmingham
- Dr. Tim Wick, Senior Associate Dean, School of Engineering, University of Alabama at Birmingham
- Dr. Robin McGill, Director of Instruction, Alabama Commission on Higher Education
- Elisabeth Davis, Assistant Superintendent of the Division of Teaching and Learning, Alabama State Board of Education
- Dr. Jeff Gray, Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Alabama
- Dr. Cynthia McCarty, District 6 Representative, Alabama State Board of Education
- Dr. Andre Harrison, Vice President, Cognia
- Brenda Terry, Executive Director, Alabama Mathematics, Science, Technology, and Engineering Coalition for Education
- Tammy Dunn, Program Director, A+ Education Partnership
A copy of Executive Order No. 721 is available here.
Governor awards grant to expand court facility dog program
Gov. Kay Ivey has awarded $1.17 million to continue and expand a statewide program that helps children and others who have been victims of crime feel more at ease when testifying in court or undergoing other crime-related interviews.
The grant to the Alabama Office of Prosecution Services will enable that state agency to continue its facility dog program.
The program uses specially trained dogs to calm traumatized victims when they are called into the courtroom or interview room to recount details of often horrific crimes committed against them.
“I cannot imagine what victims, especially children, have to go through when they are called before strangers to recall what is often a very personal and sensitive tragedy that they have difficulty even relaying to family members,” Ivey said. “This program has proven beyond successful and has been admired and modeled by other states. I am pleased to support its continuation and expansion here in Alabama.”
Facility dogs have been used more than 1,000 times including forensic interviews, court hearings, medical examinations and other case-related matters. The dogs are based in several counties, but according to the Office of Prosecution Services, are available for use throughout the state.
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is administering the grant from funds made available to the state from the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The facility dog program has been vastly successful and well received throughout the state,” said ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell. “Although we would prefer that there would be no reason for this program to even exist, ADECA joins with Gov. Ivey in assisting with its continued success.”
Ivey notified Barry Matson, executive director of Prosecution Services, that the grant had been approved.
ADECA administers a wide range of programs that support law enforcement, victim programs, economic development, water resource management, energy conservation and recreation.
Governor issues State of Emergency ahead of Tropical Storm Sally
Gov. Kay Ivey has issued a State of Emergency for Alabama ahead of Tropical Storm Sally. It is anticipated that this storm system will be upgraded to a hurricane sometime Monday.
“Bad weather is nothing to take lightly. Earlier today, I issued a State of Emergency because those on the Gulf Coast know a flood and heavy rains can be just as deadly as tropical winds,” Ivey said. “We pray that Sally doesn’t do any harm, but we must be prepared just in case. As your governor, you have my assurance that every resource will be available if we need it. Be safe, Alabama.”
The National Hurricane center is forecasting that Sally will be near the mouth of the Mississippi River late tonight. From there, it is forecast to slow down and turn north, and move into the Mississippi coast tomorrow afternoon.
The Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coasts are under a Hurricane Warning, which also includes New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana coast. A tropical storm warning is in effect from Morgan City, Louisiana, to Panama City, Florida.
1 PM CDT 9/14 #Sally Update: Hurricane #Sally continues meandering over the north-central Gulf of Mexico. Additional strengthening is forecast during the next day or so before it makes landfall along the north-central Gulf Coast on Tue or Tue night. https://t.co/tW4KeFW0gB pic.twitter.com/8oPmhptnIV
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 14, 2020
Mobile Bay is under a Storm Surge Warning. The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to flood by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The current forecast is that the Alabama Gulf Coast, including Mobile Bay, could see a storm surge of four to six feet.
Police Chiefs Association “wholeheartedly” supports Ivey’s prison plan
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday announced the two developer teams that are to build the state’s three new mega prisons. Ivey said those prisons are to be located in Bibb, Elmore County and Escambia counties.
The president of the Alabama Association of Police Chiefs Chief Patrick W. Mardis released a statement in support of the governor’s plan.
“I wholeheartedly support Governor Ivey’s initiative to build new prisons in the state of Alabama,” Mardis said. “Not only will this ease the overcrowding within our facilities, but it will also improve officer safety and inmate conditions. In addition, we should see drastic improvements through the update of our facilities by returning to the intent of corrections — rehabilitating prisoners into productive citizens who are able to rejoin society.”
Mardis is the chief of the Tuskegee University Police, a position he has held since 2010. Prior to that, Mardis served with the Fairfield Police Department for 22 years, the last five as police chief.
“The Alabama Prison Program is vital for the long-term success of our state and communities,” Ivey said in a statement. “We all — legislators, advocates, and taxpayers, alike — can and should agree that we must rebuild Alabama’s correctional system from the ground up to improve safety for our state’s correctional staff and inmate population, and we must do it immediately.”
ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn said, “This important benchmark demonstrates meaningful progress against our multi-faceted strategy to transform Alabama’s correctional system and empowers the ADOC to shift to a rehabilitative model. It is no secret that the ADOC is facing real, longstanding challenges, most of which are decades in the making and rooted in inadequate, crowded, and structurally failing facilities. Building new facilities that improve safety and security for staff and inmates and allow for effective inmate rehabilitation is the right and only path forward.”
According to the governor’s office, the Alabama Department of Corrections Evaluation Committee previously identified qualified developer teams based on the experience and qualifications of the team lead, equity partners, design and construction teams, and service providers, as well as their ability to adequately meet the financial needs of the Alabama Prison Program.
The Evaluation Committee provided an assessment of the proposals submitted by the developer teams including a review of the proposed lease price and financial plan, as well as technical evaluations of the proposed design.
In evaluating the proposed designs, the Evaluation Committee ensured that the developer teams proposed sustainable facilities that are safe, secure and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the American Correctional Association’s guidelines and other nationally recognized standards, with a driving goal to provide evidence-based rehabilitation to all inmates.
The governor said that the new facilities will feature approximately 37 percent more programming space per inmate, as well as increased educational, training and recreational/exercise space, which the governor’s office said “will provide for a more meaningful visitation experience for inmates and their loved ones.”
The new prisons will have four times more celled spaces than open dorms as compared to current facilities, which will reduce the potential for violent incidents to occur, enhance safety for both correctional officers and inmates and improve the quality of working conditions for the staff.
The procurement process will now enter into a confidential negotiation period to ensure and secure the best possible value for the state. ADOC intends to negotiate long-term leases for each facility. While ADOC will operate and staff the facilities, the developer teams will provide infrastructure maintenance and life-cycle replacement for the duration of the lease term.
ADOC expects to close on the facilities to occur later this year, at which time the final financial terms will become publicly available. Construction is to begin in early 2021.
The construction of the new facilities will create thousands of construction jobs. Facility One will be located in Bibb County, creating 2,900 construction jobs. Facility Two will be in Elmore County and will create 3,900 construction jobs. Facility Three will be in Escambia County and produce 2,800 construction jobs.
As Alabama’s population has grown, the state has failed to build new prisons to keep up. The prison facilities that the state does have are 40, 50 or 60 years old and ADOC has long neglected maintenance on their aging facilities.
Ivey identified replacing the state’s crumbling prison infrastructure as the most pressing need facing state government in her inauguration speech last year.