Commissioner addresses staffing problems at Alabama prisons

Commissioner addresses staffing problems at Alabama prisons

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama's prison system faces problems that the Alabama Prison Transformation Act won't help, and most of it comes down to staffing.

"The major issue, to use a military term, is boots on the ground. We need more boots on the ground," said Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn.

Alabama's prisons are both understaffed and overcrowded. According to Dunn, officers sometimes are responsible for 100 inmates at a time.

"We are working as hard as we can to bring help - both short, mid and long term help," Dunn said.

The short-term is trying to help out prisons going through issues. Recently, the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore has seen riots, officers stabbed and one officer's death.

Dunn said the department is upping searches and shakedowns, implementing tactical teams and reinforcing trouble areas as much as they can.

However, that sometimes means taking officers away from other state prisons.

"We are just robbing Peter to pay Paul because the department is stretched thin staffing wise," Dunn said.

The lack of staffing creates issues, and Dunn said officers have to focus on keeping themselves safe.

"Don't enter into a situation that you feel you cannot handle, back out if you have to," Dunn said.

The Department of Corrections has an obvious problem, but no real quick fixes.

Dunn's midterm plan is an attempt to address staffing. He is pushing increased benefits and advancement opportunities to officers. The hope is this will attract and keep more officers to help watch over the state's prisons.

Most state leaders believe the Alabama Prison Transformation Act is the long-term solution. But in the meantime, Dunn said he is doing what he can to keep officers safe.

"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," Dunn said.

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