Editorial: Leaders must address state's prison problems

Editorial: Leaders must address state's prison problems

(WSFA) - Last Friday, the Alabama Department of Corrections reported that correctional officer and decorated Army National Guard veteran Kenneth Bettis had succumbed to his stabbing injuries sustained while on duty at Holman Correctional Facility on Sept. 1.

This man's death is a tragedy no doubt. If anyone says they are surprised by it then they are not paying attention. The ADOC's May monthly statistical report for departmental staffing will tell you all you need to know.

Year to date through May, Alabama's six maximum security prisons, filled with the most serious of offenders, are currently operating at 54 percent staffing levels with corrections officers. Holman prison, where Bettis worked, is currently staffed at only 45 percent. Couple this with a prison population at 154 percent of capacity, and you see why the numbers of assaults on officers are higher than ever.

The men and women working at these facilities have had enough. The number of officers that have left these maximum security facilities since the beginning of the year is staggering: 117 correctional officers and 275 in total if you add in those that have resigned from Alabama minimum and medium security prisons. This is the highest number of prison correctional officers lost in over a decade, and how could anyone blame them.

Simply stated, our state's leaders must make it a priority to once and for all address the under funding and the overcrowding in our states prison system. We talk often about the legislature and this state kicking the can down the road. Well this is what it gets you. People have lost their lives already due to inaction, and if left unattended, more will follow.

How many more Alabama correctional officers will be injured, or now we can say killed, before we finally address the problems in our state's prison system?

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