Facing court order, prison system seeks funding increase

The Alabama prison system on Thursday asked lawmakers for an additional $80 million over the next two years to boost staffing and comply with a federal court order to improve mental health care to inmates.

Posted: Jan 4, 2018 8:04 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama prison system on Thursday asked lawmakers for an additional $80 million over the next two years to boost staffing and comply with a federal court order to improve mental health care to inmates.

Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn told lawmakers during budget hearings that the system needs a $30 million supplement this year and a $50 million increase in 2019.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson last year ruled that Alabama's psychiatric care of state inmates is "horrendously inadequate" and ordered the state to improve conditions. Dunn said the state must address the situation or risk federal intervention in the system and Thompson ordering the state what to do.

"We have a ruling from a federal judge that has been very critical of our system and basically said if the state does not address this issue, and address it immediately, then he is going to take other actions," Dunn told reporters after the hearing. "I don't think anybody in the state wants federal intervention."

Most of the requested money would go to a new health care contract, but the state was also seeking $5 million to try to recruit and retain more officers in this fiscal year and $3.6 million to renovations at prisons needed to comply with the order.

For 2019, Dunn said $36 million is for the increased spending in the contract to provide health care to inmates. The other $14 million would go to try to raise the number of correctional officers in state prisons.

The prison chief said officer staffing is about half of what it should be, despite recruitment efforts. He said the system could need as many as 1,000 new corrections officers, although he acknowledged that $14 million would not provide that.

Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Maria Morris, who is representing inmates in the class-action lawsuit that led to the ruling, called the department's request a "good start" but said she is concerned it will not be enough to improve conditions, particularly staffing levels. Thompson found a lack of staff was a significant contributor to the poor conditions.

"The lack of correctional staff is really dire. It's frankly shocking," Morris said.

Alabama inmates sued the state, saying the prison system was failing to provide constitutionally adequate medical and mental health care.

Jamie Wallace, an inmate diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, killed himself 10 days after testifying at the trial that he received sparse treatment despite hearing voices in his head that sometimes told him to kill himself. Wallace was in prison for killing his mother.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
Lafayette341053
Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
Pearl River158969
Coahoma155943
Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
Grenada145445
Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
Tippah130030
George129525
Winston128726
Hancock127641
Wayne123024
Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
DeKalb504738
Cullman472043
St. Clair451857
Limestone447546
Lauderdale436054
Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
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