70 graduate, become Ala. state corrections officers - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

70 graduate, become Ala. state corrections officers

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

It's graduation day for people like Nathan Runion. Runion along with more than 70 of his fellow recruits spent 12 weeks qualifying to become state corrections officers.

As class president Runion steps into a new chapter in his life.

"I know I am prepared and ready to go," said Runion.

The guest speaker warned the new graduates of tough days ahead when dealing with inmates. What wasn't discussed in detail was the huge shortage of corrections officers in Alabama, a class of 72 doesn't even begin to touch the shortage of 1,500 officers, a shortage due to state budget cuts.

Still, state prison chief Kim Thomas feels this will help.

"It's a start and it's the quality of the officers that matter," said Commissioner Thomas.

Another issue; only one from this group will be assigned to Tutwiler women's prison in Wetumpka, the site of sexual abuse by officers. In fact, the National Institute of Corrections delivered a scathing report on the lack of oversight at the prison. As part of his on-going reforms, Thomas says some of these officers graduating today could very well end up at Tutwiler.

On a lighter note at the ceremony this class made history. As a group it had the highest graduation rate in recent years with 83 percent.

The officers will start out making $28,500 a year.

Officer Runion will be assigned to Limestone Correctional Facility in north Alabama.

"My biggest fear is the uncertainty of everyday," said Runion.

Officers like Runion took the oath, received their diplomas and marched out to begin new careers.

Most of them begin work on Monday.

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