New commissioner to lead Alabama’s prison system

Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 4:17 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 7, 2021 at 10:39 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The beleaguered Alabama Department of Corrections will soon have a new commissioner after Gov. Kay Ivey tapped current Alabama Law Enforcement Agency Deputy Secretary John Hamm as its next leader.

Hamm will succeed Commissioner Jeff Dunn, who has held the position since 2015 but plans to step down by the end of the year

“For decades, the challenges of our state’s prison system have gone unaddressed and have grown more difficult as a result, but after assuming office, I committed to the people of Alabama that we would solve this once and for all,” Ivey said. “Commissioner Dunn and I have worked together to make many foundational changes, including getting the Alabama Prison Plan moving across the finish line, and I know this critical step will make a difference for decades to come. I have said before that Commissioner Dunn has a thankless job, but I am proud that he has led with the utmost integrity. He has helped lay the groundwork that I now look forward to building upon with John Hamm at the helm.”

“[Dunn] has helped lay the groundwork that I now look forward to building upon with John Hamm at the helm,” the governor explained. “I am confident in the direction we will take this department in the coming years.”

Hamm has more than 35 years in law enforcement. Prior to working in an ALEA leadership position, he oversaw the State Bureau of Investigation. His law enforcement experience covers corrections at post the state and local level.

“I am honored and humbled by Governor Ivey appointing me as commissioner of Corrections,” Hamm said. “I will work diligently with the men and women of DOC to fulfill Governor Ivey’s charge of solving the issues of Alabama’s prison system.”

In 2020, after a multi-year investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the State of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Corrections, alleging conditions at the state’s prisons for men violate the Constitution. The DOJ contends Alabama does not provide adequate protection against prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse.

In late 2021, the DOJ filed a new complaint saying the state has done little to make changes.

Prosecutors also say ADOC is not providing safe and sanitary conditions, and prisoners are subjected to excessive force at the hands of prison staff.

During a recent special session of the legislature, Alabama lawmakers approved a $1.3 billion prison construction bill that Ivey signed into law. It will include the use of hundreds of millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan, designated to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, to construct three new mega-prisons.

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