ALABAMA – A judge ordered the Alabama Department of Corrections to increase prison staff in 2017 after the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit saying prison conditions were unconstitutional. The prison has a looming deadline in 2022 to accomplish this goal.
While ADOC says it’s making progress, the SPLC says the agency needs to do more.
According to the Alabama Department of Corrections, as of September 2019, there were a total of 1,340 correctional, basic correctional and cubicle correctional officers in Alabama state prisons.
But the Southern Poverty Law Center doesn’t believe that is enough and that the state’s efforts to retain and recruit officers aren’t yet proven to be effective, saying in court documents quote, “Recent data filed by defendants shows an increase of only 25 officers over nearly two years.”
ADOC disagrees saying in a statement, “We believe the SPLC intentionally took great liberties with complicated information that ultimately painted an inaccurate portrait of the meaningful progress we have made…”
The prison system says it had a net gain of 193 corrections security staff and graduated an additional 125 officers in December 2019.
In the court filing last week, the SPLC says that “cubicle correctional officers,” who are not trained to interact with people, should not be counted toward the court-ordered staffing requirements.
In order to comply with the court’s orders, the SPLC says the Alabama Department of Corrections must hire more than 2,000 correctional officers by February 2020.
Attorneys with the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, and the law firms Baker Donelson and Zarzaur provide the following response to ADOC’s statement regarding the SPLC’s most recent court filing:
“No matter how you do the math, Alabama’s prisons remain horrifically understaffed. Alabama has a very long way to go to comply with the Court’s Order requiring hiring 2,200 correctional officers by February 2022.”
ADOC says in addition to working to hire more correctional staff – building three new prisons will help with retention and recruitment.