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Report explores “crisis” in Alabama’s prisons

Rows of prison cells, prison interior.

The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama recently released a series of briefs outlining the problems within Alabama’s correctional facilities including overcrowding, unsafe and inadequate environments and an absurdly high incarceration rate compared to other states.

In February, APR reported that Gov. Kay Ivey was poised to move forward with her plan to build three new prisons in Alabama. The three new prisons are estimated to cost $900 million.

The Alabama Department of Corrections hired a project management team to assess the prison system’s needs over the last two years, which is what spurred Ivey’s plan to build the three new prisons. Former Gov. Robert Bentley tried a similar plan, which failed more than once in Alabama’s Republican-led Legislature.

Among the findings in the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama brief, ADOC will spend $486 million in the 2019 fiscal year to incarcerate approximately 20,000 people and supervise another 6,800 or more not incarcerated but still under their jurisdiction.

Alabama prisons are currently at 163 percent capacity, and Alabama employs one correctional officer for every 14 people incarcerated. This is compared to one for every seven in Florida, according to the briefs.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit over mental health care in Alabama’s prisons that ended with Federal Judge Myron Thompson ruling conditions to be “horrendously” and constitutionally “inadequate.”

Thompson ordered the state to nearly double the number of correctional officers over the next two years. Ivey’s plan also intends to hire more prison staff, which would help the state meet the court’s requirement.

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Ivey also plans to propose a general fund budget that includes an additional $31 million for ADOC so the state can follow through with hiring the 500 new correctional officers. This also aims to pay for increased security personnel salaries in order to make their wages competitive.

The briefings state that correctional officers are the lowest paid public safety officers in Alabama and experience the highest turnover. A consulting firm hired by ADOC recommends adding 1,800 to 2,000 additional correctional officers, compared to Ivey’s plan to hire 500 more.

“Alabama is currently under a federal court order requiring the state to roughly double the number of corrections officers over the next two years,” Ivey said on Tuesday. “If we fail to resolve the apparent issue of understaffing in our prisons, federal courts will dictate what needs to happen in our own state.”

Ivey connected her plan to a major point of her campaign: Alabama solutions to Alabama problems.

 

Jessica Ballard
Written By

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