Prison chief optimistic state will settle, avoid lawsuit

MGN Online

The federal government recently scathed the state of Alabama for its prison conditions.

Posted: Apr 19, 2019 2:34 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said Thursday that he is optimistic the state will reach a settlement and avoid a Department of Justice lawsuit over prison violence.

The U.S. Department of Justice this month released a scathing report saying Alabama inmates are housed in violent, unsafe and unconstitutional conditions. Dunn told the Joint Legislative Committee on Prison Oversight that the department is communicating with federal officials and he is optimistic they will reach a settlement agreement.

"We've got to address these issues. I've been saying that for four years, ever since I came into this position," Dunn told reporters after the meeting.

Understaffing was a major concern identified by the Justice Department. Committee members quizzed Dunn on the department's attempt to add staff.

Alabama is attempting to hire 500 officers within a year to comply with a court order in an ongoing prison health care case to add about 2,000 officers by 2020.

A firm hired by the state to develop a staffing plan recommended increasing starting officer trainee pay from about $29,000 to about $37,000.

Legislation introduced this week would give officers a two-step salary increase. State Personnel Director Jackie Graham said the state is also expanding salary ranges and making other administrative changes to increase pay.

Committee members said they wanted to see firm numbers on what pay would be under the proposed changes and how it would compare to the firm's recommendations.

"If we need to hire 500 people, our job is to figure out how to do it," Committee Chairman Cam Ward said.

The firm also recommended creating a new type of officer position, with easier entry requirements, to handle some prison tasks.

Lawmakers pressed Dunn if the state would actually be able to hire 500 officers in one year.

Dunn responded that the salary proposal gives the "best opportunity to achieve that goal."

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is considering a plan to build new prisons. The Alabama Department of Corrections sought "expressions of interest" from companies to build three new prisons and lease them back to the state. Ivey's office said Thursday that five companies responded.

Some lawmakers expressed concern about the pace of the state reaction to the Department of Justice.

Asked if he was satisfied with the department's plan to address the scathing findings, Rep. Chris England, replied that, "Actually, I haven't heard one."

England, a member of the oversight committee, said lawmakers are still waiting to see the department's short-term and long-term plans for addressing the report.

Ward and England said they expect lawmakers to bring their own a series of bills, ranging from prison construction to sentencing changes, to try to improve conditions.

"The Department of Justice wants to see some political will to actually tackle the problem," England said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 16769

Reported Deaths: 803
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds110426
Madison77829
Lauderdale76569
Neshoba73945
Jones70933
Scott66312
Forrest60039
DeSoto59310
Rankin4639
Leake45512
Holmes44431
Copiah3344
Jackson31415
Attala31218
Yazoo2985
Newton2924
Oktibbeha28314
Leflore28238
Lincoln28131
Wayne2803
Monroe26925
Harrison2687
Lamar2525
Lowndes2529
Pearl River21231
Pike20411
Adams20416
Warren19910
Washington1998
Lee1978
Noxubee1956
Covington1832
Bolivar16911
Jasper1684
Clarke15619
Smith15611
Lafayette1564
Kemper15611
Chickasaw14314
Coahoma1324
Clay1254
Winston1241
Carroll11911
Marion1169
Claiborne1165
Yalobusha1116
Grenada1104
Lawrence1071
Simpson1050
Sunflower963
Tate931
Hancock9012
Marshall893
Union897
Itawamba897
Webster885
Panola873
Wilkinson859
Montgomery841
Jefferson Davis823
Tippah7611
Calhoun684
Walthall670
Amite651
Humphreys647
Tunica583
Prentiss533
Choctaw522
Perry513
Pontotoc493
Jefferson421
Tishomingo360
Stone320
Quitman320
Tallahatchie311
Greene301
George302
Franklin292
Alcorn191
Benton140
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 19387

Reported Deaths: 676
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2341123
Jefferson1927105
Montgomery190544
Tuscaloosa85316
Marshall7149
Franklin5939
Lee56334
Shelby53619
Tallapoosa43566
Butler43121
Walker3973
Elmore38110
Chambers36326
Madison3594
Unassigned3144
Morgan3141
Baldwin2969
Dallas2963
Lowndes26912
Etowah26512
DeKalb2603
Autauga2485
Coffee2401
Sumter2369
Houston2275
Pike2231
Bullock2197
Colbert1972
Hale19210
Russell1870
Barbour1831
Marengo1796
Lauderdale1752
Calhoun1693
Cullman1631
Wilcox1587
Choctaw15310
Clarke1492
St. Clair1372
Randolph1288
Dale1250
Marion12511
Talladega1215
Pickens1215
Limestone1100
Chilton1081
Greene955
Macon944
Winston920
Jackson863
Henry842
Covington831
Crenshaw803
Escambia793
Bibb761
Washington746
Blount641
Lawrence510
Monroe492
Geneva450
Perry430
Conecuh421
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar280
Fayette160
Cleburne151
Tupelo
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 79°
Columbus
Broken Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 75°
Oxford
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 75°
Starkville
Broken Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 72°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather