MONTGOMERY, Ala. – In a move to improve staffing in state prisons, the Alabama Department of Corrections today announced plans to optimize the department’s critical shortage of correctional officers through recruiting initiatives and repurposing facilities.
Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said the plan is a three-pronged approach, which prioritizes resources for recruiting, pursues an increase in officer pay and allows the department to increase correctional staffing levels by merging operations within the department.
“The first step toward addressing staffing needs is attracting quality men and women who want to serve. The ADOC is stepping up recruiting efforts through an aggressive ad campaign that uses all mediums from radio and TV ads, to using social media for attracting potential applicants,” Dunn said. “ADOC recruiters are actively working with the Alabama Department of Labor, collaborating with employment agencies at the county and local level, and partnering with state colleges and universities to promote career opportunities in the Department of Corrections.”
Dunn added that the ADOC is conducting compensation studies and plans to provide such information to the legislature in an effort to increase officer pay, an key factor in officer recruitment success.
In addition to addressing recruitment numbers and a pay increase for officers, Dunn said the ADOC has spent the past 24 months assessing the department’s staffing levels and forming a plan that will consolidate operations in selected facilities. The plan will realign operations at Draper Correctional Facility by reassigning staff to major facilities in Elmore and Montgomery Counties and moving inmates to other major correctional facilities. These changes will increase the staffing levels at Elmore, Staton, Kilby, and Tutwiler correctional facilities by 20-25 percent.
In a 2017 report, the architectural and engineering firm, Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood (GMC), conducted a comprehensive assessment of ADOC’s major facilities. The assessment concluded that Draper had outlived its useful life and required over $30 million in repairs to meet minimum standards. The facility’s major flaws, at present, are the state of disrepair in the facility’s kitchen and living areas. Draper is the state’s oldest prison built in 1938 and designed to house 600 inmates. Today, the facility has close to 1,000 inmates with a staff of 94 security supervisors and officers.
Dunn said the GMC report validates ADOC’s internal assessment of the conditions at Draper, which concludes the facility is no longer suitable to house inmates, or to be used as a correctional facility. Draper will be repurposed for vocational and educational training programs led by J.F. Ingram State Technical College for inmates housed in nearby facilities.
In addition to repurposing Draper prison, the plan will move inmates out of the Childersburg Work Release Center in North Alabama and transfer the property to the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles. The facility will be repurposed as a Life Tech Transition Center, mirroring the one already operating successfully in Thomasville, and will provide vocation, education and life-skills training to parolees who are preparing their transition back into society. The innovate approach of the transition center will increase the state’s ability to provide re-entry services and reduce recidivism.
“This is just one example of our collaboration with ADOC in our continued commitment to Alabama criminal justice reforms to advance public safety through the reduction of recidivism. We will use this facility to further our mission for rehabilitation of individuals to meet these goals,” said Cliff Walker, Chairman of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Staff currently assigned to the work release center will be offered positions at the St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville and other facilities.
ADOC will move some of the inmates from the work release center to St. Clair Correctional Facility and will continue supporting governmental agencies in Childersburg and surrounding communities. Remaining inmates will be moved to other minimum custody level facilities.
Sentencing guidelines and criminal justice reform legislation, passed in recent years, have led to a significant decline in the inmate population. Since 2013, the inmate population has gone from 25,170 to 21,306, a 15 percent decrease. The decrease in the inmate population makes allows ADOC to address critical staffing shortages through consolidation of operations, with a negligible impact on overcrowding.
After combining operations of Draper and Childersburg with other facilities, the inmate population based on design capacity will minimally increase from 160 to 167 percent. The inmate population will continue to decrease according to evidenced-based assessments of legislative initiatives. With combined sentencing reforms and the proactive repurposing of facilities, the inmate population is expected to decrease to about 20,000 inmates, or approximately 150 percent of design capacity, in the next 24 months.
“This plan comes at a critical time when our department faces significant personnel shortages, as made clear recently by a federal court. The changes announced today are not a final solution, within themselves, but are steps in the right direction. Ultimately, our long-term objective is to improve conditions within ADOC facilities for the safety and wellbeing of our employees and of those who are placed in the department’s custody,” Dunn concluded.
ADOC will implement the consolidation plan beginning in March 2018.