Tag: Alabama prisons

Governor’s Study Group Meets on Prison Operations

Gov. Kay Ivey’s Study Group on Criminal Justice Policy convened Wednesday in Montgomery to discuss operations of the Alabama Department of Corrections. Earlier in the day, the group toured Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore County, one of the state’s 15 major correctional facilities.

“It’s crowded. It’s hot,” group chairman Justice Champ Lyons said of the prisons tour. “They have fans, bunkbeds, lights that stay on 24/7. You learn to sleep in the daylight.”

ADOC is largely understaffed and overcrowded, with record high levels of violence and suicide. In addition to an ongoing lawsuit about the mental health care and medical care of inmates, the department also faces the threat of federal intervention, following the April publication of a scathing Department of Justice report that detailed gruesome conditions in state prisons.

Ivey appointed the criminal justice reform group in July to study issues that plague the system. The group will develop reform proposals ahead of the 2020 legislative session. Read more.

Report: Alabama Community Corrections Harms Low-Income Participants

WBHM
A recent report from the Southern Poverty Law Center says Alabama’s community corrections program unfairly burdens low-income people and threatens public safety. Community corrections, operating in 51 of Alabama’s 67 counties, is overseen by the state Department of Corrections but run locally. It’s designed to be an alternative to prison. The report’s main criticism is that community corrections relies on fees as a primary revenue source. These include fees for drug testing, supervision or electronic monitoring. Read more.

Prison Re-Entry Program to Expand With $6 Million Grant

Michael Bryant has served time in prison twice. The 40-year-old didn’t want to be locked up a third time. So months after he was released, Bryant finished the Dannon Project’s adult re-entry program. It helps non-violent offenders successfully return to the community.

Bryant is proud of himself, and every now and then he goes by to let people in the program know he’s doing okay.

“I feel like a small celebrity when I come through,” he says. “They’ll be like ‘man you’re doing good.’ I’ve been out eight months. I got a car, I’m driving, I’m working. I got my own spot and they helped me do that.”

The Dannon Project helps formerly incarcerated people like Bryant avoid future involvement with the justice system. Recently the nonprofit received a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to expand its adult re-entry program. It’ll also launch a re-entry program for young adults in October. Read more.

Lawmakers Boost Money for Prisons and Will Return in the Fall to Take on Pervasive Problems

As the Alabama Legislature winds down its regular session, state lawmakers are on track to boost the budget for the state’s prisons, they have approved a pay raise for correctional officers, and they expect to meet again in the fall to address other issues in a system that is still overcrowded, under-resourced and under the watchful eye of a federal judge and the U.S. Justice Department.

“There are lot of different issues, from mental health to overcrowding, the pay, to facilities,” said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston.

Friday is likely to be the last day of the regular session. On Wednesday, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law a bill that will give correctional officers “a one-time two-step salary increase,” and expand bonus opportunities for Department of Corrections employees. The measure takes effect Oct. 1, the first day of fiscal 2020.

Over the past few years, the Department of Corrections has seen its budgets increase by small amounts. For fiscal 2020, it expects to have a budget of $601 million. Most of that money would come from the state General Fund, which pays for most of state government’s non-educational functions.

The Legislature has approved and sent to the governor a General Fund budget that is slated to include money to cover the pay increase signed into law by Ivey, give money to hire and train 500 new corrections officers during fiscal 2020 and improve the prison system’s mental health services. Read more.

BirminghamWatch, in collaboration with B-Metro Magazine, documented the conditions under which correctional officers work for a story last year:

Guarded: Alabama Correctional Officers Work Long Hours in Dangerous Conditions for Low Pay – and There Aren’t Nearly Enough of Them.

Bill to Allow Former Convicts Access to More Occupations Advances

MONTGOMERY — Alabama lawmakers are close to removing many restrictions in state law about where convicted felons can work.

“Everyone says we want people who get out of prison to be employed, taxpaying citizens,” Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said Thursday. “But then the government puts barriers in the way of people getting jobs.”

There are more than 700 places in Alabama law that restrict the occupations and business licenses of the felons. For example, they can’t be interior designers or get some cosmetology licenses, Ward said.
Read more.

Budgets, Education Reform Among Bills Pending in Final Stretch of Legislative Session

Alabama lawmakers this year have approved a statewide gas tax increase, told sheriffs they can’t keep money meant for feeding jail inmates and said they want a shot at the U.S. Supreme Court with the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban.

The Legislature has two to three weeks remaining in its 2019 session, and a lot of legislating is left to do. Still on the table are proposals for a lottery, the state’s budgets, education bills and medical marijuana, to name just the tip of the iceberg.

For a look at some of the major bills that are pending and what might get punted to a special session later this year, Read more.

Lawmakers Tackle Alabama’s Persistent Prison Problems

Alabama’s prisons are overcrowded, understaffed, and plagued by violence. A federal judge ruled mental health care for inmates is “horrendously inadequate.” There have been 15 suicides in as many months – including one earlier this month. Two inmates were stabbed and killed recently as well. While overcrowding has eased slightly, state lawmakers know there’s more work to do. WBHM’s Andrew Yeager spoke with state Sen. Cam Ward, a leading voice on prison issues, to get a sense of where lawmakers stand during this legislative session.