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Commissioner praises prison employees for putting lives on the line during pandemic

Brandon Moseley

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ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn

Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn on Thursday praised the department’s employees for “literally putting their lives on the line” coming into work during the COVID-19 crisis. Dunn was speaking to the Alabama State Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee, which is holding budget hearings in Montgomery.

“I cannot praise them enough,” Dunn said. “They are going into the facility knowing that it (the coronavirus) is there. Not just our corrections officers but also our healthcare workers.”

“Many of our workers are single moms,” Dunn said. “We have several families where both the husband and wife work for the department and they have children and they are coming to work each day.”

“188 of our staff have self-reported” being coronavirus positive, Dunn said. “109 of them have already been able to return to work. That is a tribute to the dedication of our staff. Unfortunately, we have had two employee deaths.”

“We are working on an expanded testing protocol, so we can eventually test the entire inmate population and can offer testing to our staff,” Dunn said. Employees also have the option of going to their doctor for testing.

“To this point we have tested 523 inmates, 2 percent of our population, and that number will continue to expand,” Dunn assured legislators.

Dunn said COVID-19 has negatively impacted ADOC’s efforts to hire more corrections officers. They have had to cancel job fairs and some new officer trainings due to the coronavirus shutdown. Dunn assured the senators that there has been progress in addressing the staffing issues that have been cited in a lawsuit in federal court.

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Dunn said that to this point in 2020, ADOC has had a net increase of 150 corrections officers. The Department has made 455 new hires, but has lost 305 due to attrition for a net gain of 150.

Dunn showed a graph to the state Senators showing that the number of corrections officers working at ADOC peaked at around 2,000 in 2011. Since then the number of officers has declined precipitously dropping to as low as 1100, before beginning to rise in the last year.

“Our hiring efforts have been slowed down by COVID-19,” Dunn explained

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Dunn said that they are talking with many candidates who are interested once their unemployment runs out. “We have a whole pool of folks who are waiting and seeing.”

“We always understood that this was going to be a process,” Dunn told Senators.

“Our personnel budget next year is $300 million,” Dunn said. “We have reduced our overtime over $300,000 this year. We have a much tighter management control over that. Part of that reduction is due to the increase in staffing.

Committee Chairman Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, told Dunn, “The over is a very sensitive matter.”

Dunn said that any savings from reducing overtime is being used to pay for the new hires.

Dunn said that the prisons are currently operating at 155 percent capacity. Dunn predicted that once the state builds the three new mega-prisons currently in the bid process that ADOC will be operating at 120 to 125 percent capacity. Dunn said that the state has determined from the California case that 137 percent capacity is right at about the line where the federal courts would intervene. ADOC has set the capacity goal at 120 to 125 percent to have a buffer percentage.

ADOC is funded in the State General Fund (SGF) budget. Alabama has an arcane budgeting system where over 90 percent of state funds are earmarked and there are two separate budgets: the SGF and the state education trust fund budget (ETF). Alabama historically has underfunded its prisons and has long neglected its aging prison infrastructure.

COVID-19 remains a very serious problem in Alabama. 2,064 Alabamians were reported positive on Thursday and another ten died, taking Alabama’s death toll to 1,042.

 

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Health

At least 248 COVID deaths reported in Alabama in October

The cumulative death toll in Alabama has risen by 248 to 2,788 in October and by 124 in the last week alone.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

We’re a little more than halfway through the month of October and the Alabama Department of Public Health has already reported at least 248 deaths from COVID-19.

The cumulative death toll in Alabama has risen by 248 to 2,788 in October and by 124 in the last week alone.

At least 378 deaths were reported in the month of September, a rate of 12.6 deaths per day over the month. In the first 17 days of October, the rate has been 14.6 deaths per day, a 15.9 percent increase from September.

Deaths were higher in July and August. The cumulative death toll increased by 582 in August and 630 in July, the worst month of the pandemic for the state.

On Saturday, ADPH reported that 1,288 more people in the state were confirmed positive with the coronavirus, and on Sunday the count increased by 964. The number of confirmed cases in Alabama has risen to 172,626.

There have been 17,925 new cases Alabama in October alone. The state is averaging almost 996 cases per day in October, which is up from September.

The state had 28,643 new coronavirus cases in September, 38,335 cases new cases in August, and 49,678 cases in July. Public health officials credit Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s statewide mask order on July 15 with slowing the spread of the virus in the state, but the virus has not gone away.

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ADPH reported 823 hospitalizations for COVID-19 on October 17, the most recent day for which we have data. While hospitalizations for COVID-19 are down from the peaks in early August in Alabama have risen from Oct. 1 when 748 Alabamians were hospitalized, a 10 percent increase from the first of the month.

The state of Alabama is continuing to struggle to protect its most vulnerable citizens. At least 6,497 residents of long term care facilities in Alabama have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, 247 of them in October.

There have also been 3,362 cases among long term care workers in Alabama, including 197 in the month of October. Some 9,819 Alabama health care workers have also contracted the coronavirus.

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Most people who test positive for the novel strain of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, are asymptomatic or have only minor symptoms, but in about one out of five cases it can become much more severe.

For older people or people with underlying medical conditions like obesity, heart disease, asthma, cancer, diabetes or HIV, COVID-19 can turn deadly. COVID-19 is the abbreviated name for the medical condition caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Some 1,115,600 people worldwide have died from COVID-19 worldwide, including 224,284 Americans. There are 8,972,704 known active cases in the world today.

Public health officials warn citizens that coronavirus remains a present danger in our community. Social distancing is the best way to avoid spreading the virus. Avoid venues with large groups. Don’t shake hands or hug persons not living in your household.

Avoid leaving your home as much as possible and wear a mask or cloth face covering when you do go out. Avoid touching your face and wash your hands with soap frequently. Hand sanitizer is recommended.

A coronavirus vaccine may be available in the coming months, but we don’t yet know when or how effective it will be.

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National

Today is the last day to register to vote for the November 3 general election

The deadline to register to vote for the Nov. 3, 2020, general election is Oct. 19.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The secretary of state’s office on Sunday announced that its employees will be available until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 19, to assist with voter registration.

The deadline to register to vote for the Nov. 3, 2020, general election is Oct. 19.

Eligible Alabamians can register to vote online at AlabamaVotes.gov, through the mobile app “Vote for Alabama,” or by visiting their county board of registrars office.

To submit an application to register to vote, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must be a citizen of the United States.
  • You must live in the State of Alabama.
  • You must be at least 18 years of age on or before election day.
  • You must not be barred from voting by reason of a disqualifying felony conviction.
  • You must not have been judged “mentally incompetent” in a court of law.

Online registrations will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. and in-person registrations will be accepted until the close of business Monday, Oct. 19.

The office of the secretary of state will be available by phone to assist with any questions or concerns until 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 19 and can be reached at 334-242-7200 and the elections division can be reached at 334-242-7210.

Secretary of State John Merrill said, “I want to make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

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You can still register after the deadline, but you won’t be able to vote in this general election. Voters must have a valid photo ID. If you do not have a valid photo ID you can get a free voter ID from your local board of registrars or from the secretary of state’s office.

Every voter must vote at the polling place that they are assigned. It is not too late to apply for an absentee ballot. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is five days before the election. A record number of people are expected to vote absentee.

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Elections

Tuberville, Sessions campaign together

The two former Republican primary opponents participated in a series of campaign events across the Tennessee Valley area.

Brandon Moseley

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Former Sen. Jeff Sessions, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

The Tommy Tuberville for U.S. Senate campaign released a social media video Thursday featuring Tuberville alongside former U.S. Sen. and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The two former Republican primary opponents had participated in a series of campaign events across the Tennessee Valley area.

Tuberville and Sessions on Wednesday met with representatives of Huntsville’s defense and technology sectors, participated in an event sponsored by the Republican Women of Huntsville and headlined multiple campaign fundraising events.

Sessions said, “Tommy, I support you 100 percent. Alabama must send you to represent us in the Senate. We cannot allow a Chuck Schumer acolyte – Doug Jones – to represent Alabama in the Senate.”

“You see it on his vote on the judges and Kavanaugh and the way he’s behaved about the new nominee, so I think … it would be shocking that Alabama would reelect a Doug Jones,” Sessions continued. “I know you’re going to win. I feel really good about it, and I’m glad that you’re traveling the state hard and that you’re here in this important community.”

The night after Tuberville won the Republican primary runoff election, Sessions committed to doing his part to help defeat Jones and reclaim the Senate seat for the ALGOP.

“After we won the runoff, Jeff Sessions called and told me, ‘Coach, I’m all in,’ and today’s joint events certainly demonstrate that he is a man of his word,” Tuberville said following the video shoot. “Jeff Sessions understands that it’s time we once again had a U.S. senator whose votes reflect our conservative Alabama values, not the ultra-liberal Hollywood and New York values of Doug Jones’s high-dollar, out-of-state campaign donors.”

Tuberville faces a determined Jones, who is flooding the airwaves with ads. Democrats are desperate to hold on to Jones’ seat, believing that his seat could tip control of the Senate to the Democrats.

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Democrats hope to hold onto their control the U.S. House of Representatives and a recent poll by Rasmussen shows Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a five point lead over incumbent Donald Trump.

Sessions left the U.S. Senate to accept an appointment as Trump’s first attorney general.

Jones defeated former Chief Justice Roy Moore to win the seat in the special election.

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Sessions was fired by Trump in 2018 and announced his candidacy for Senate the day before qualifying ended. Tuberville had already spent ten months on the campaign trail at that point.

Tuberville defeated Sessions, Moore, Congressman Bradley Byrne, State Rep. Arnold Mooney and businessman Stanley Adair in the crowded Republican primary. Tuberville is a former Auburn University head football coach. He also coached Texas Tech, Cincinnati and Ole Miss. Tuberville won a national championship as the defensive coordinator at the University of Miami. Tuberville lives in Auburn.

The general election is Nov. 3.

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National

Saban tests negative for coronavirus, cleared to coach

Saban has been cleared to be on the field coaching Saturday’s football game against the University of Georgia.

Brandon Moseley

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University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban.

University of Alabama head football Coach Nick Saban took followup coronavirus tests on Friday and Saturday that came back negative following an earlier test that came back positive. Saban also tested negative on Thursday, ESPN reports.

This means that Saban has been cleared to be on the field coaching Saturday’s football game against the University of Georgia. Georgia is coach by Kirby Smart, a longtime Saban assistant.

Since Saban tested negative three times, each 24 hours apart, under the SEC protocols, he is allowed to coach the team in Saturday night’s nationally televised game against Georgia at Tuscaloosa.

Alabama is ranked No. 2 in the country while Georgia is ranked No. 3.

The SEC is playing a 10-game, conference-only schedule due to coronavirus concerns.

“I feel fine,” Saban said.

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Saban has been asymptomatic with no fever or breathing difficulties to this point. The University said in a statement that it will follow all of the SEC coronavirus protocols. The SEC can fine universities who break the virus rules as much as $1 million.

Saban will be 69 years old later this month and is in the age demographic most vulnerable to a bad outcome from COVID-19.

Even though he has been in isolation Saban has continued with his game preparations.

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“I can do absolutely everything here that I can do,” Saban told reporters Wednesday. “I’ll have the same exact routine. The first thing I do on Thursday morning is watch the defensive practice with the defense. Then we do two-point plays. Then I watch what we did against each other with the offense. Then I watch the offense practice and I watch special teams. Then I usually do a little write-up for two-point plays for the team. I’ll do all those things exactly like I always do it.”

If Saban could not have coached, then offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian would have coached Alabama tonight as interim offensive coordinator. Sarkisians was formerly the head coach at Washington and USC.

There have been 338 diagnosed coronavirus cases in Tuscaloosa County in just the last week. 130 residents of Tuscaloosa County have died in the pandemic.

The whole state of Alabama remains under a “safer-at-home” order through Nov. 8. Masks or cloth face coverings are required whenever you are in a public place or are within six feet of other people.

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