The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) Commission Jeff Dunn on Wednesday told state lawmakers it is seeking a $42 million funding increase to hire 500 new correctional officers and a 20 percent pay increase in in hopes of tackling the state’s perennial understaffing issues at state prisons.
The request represents a roughly 8.8 percent increase for the next fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.
“The Department of Corrections is undergoing unprecedented change,” Dunn told legislators. The ADOC is, “transforming the department into the most respected and trusted law enforcement agency in the state…. Although our recruiting efforts have increased, we still are down to 50 percent or lower staffing levels in many of our major facilities. And there is a direct correlation between the shortage of officers in our prisons and the increase in violence.”
According to Dunn, the 2018 occupancy rate is now 163 percent of capacity. His goal is to reduce that to 145 percent capacity. The overcrowding has led to violence within the state’s prisons and prison officers and inmates have been killed and injured in a series of violent crimes behind bars.
Under federal order for improvement
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled in 2017 that mental health care in Alabama’s prisons was “horrendously inadequate” and ordered the state to improve conditions. Since then the ADOC has been under federal court order to improve its mental health care and increase its security staff.