According to the Department of Corrections Commissioner, Jeff Dunn, Alabama’s prisons are both overcrowded and understaffed, and unfortunately, the Alabama Prison Transformation Act is not proving to be the solution to the prisons’ more immediate crises.
“The major issue, to use a military term, is boots on the ground,” said Dunn. “We need more boots on the ground. We are working as hard as we can to bring help – both short, mid and long term help.”
Right now, Dunn explained, one officer might be responsible for up to 100 inmates at a time. Recently, the William C. Holman Correctional Facility has experienced riots and stabbings that have left several officers injured and one dead.
Since then, multiple officers have resigned and many have failed to report to work.
As a short-term solution, the correctional facility is borrowing officers from other prisons, implementing tactical teams, and reinforcing problem areas.
“We are just robbing Peter to pay Paul because the department is stretched thin staffing wise,” Dunn noted, concerned that taking staff away from other prisons could cause additional problems.
Dunn plans to address staffing and is working to increase benefits and advancement opportunities for officers in an attempt to attract more skilled employees.
The Department of Corrections is not the only organization struggling with turnover. As many as 35% of CEOs of small and midsized businesses say that staffing is the most significant business issue they face.
“My role here is to continue to lead the department and to continue to push with everything I can for the solution we have on the table. And while we are doing that, take what resources we do have and put them in those areas we need them the most,” said Dunn.
Alabama prisons aren’t just understaffed, they’re overcrowded as well. Jails across the country have operated at an average 91% capacity since the year 2000; however, Alabama’s prisons are currently operating at 183% capacity.
Concerned for the officers and the inmates, the U.S. Department of Justice has opened up an investigation into the conditions of the prisons.
“The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) is profoundly overcrowded, dangerously understaffed and simply incapable of running safe and secure prisons that protect the physical and mental health of the people in custody,” said former corrections administrator Eldon Vail. “It is a system in a state of perpetual collapse.”