MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama Department of Corrections has released its 2019-2022 Strategic Plan to combat issues identified in the prison system.
From overcrowding and understaffing to higher than average suicides and homicides within facilities, Alabama’s prison problems are well documented. ADOC said the plan will serve as an “actionable road map” to reverse negative trends and transform corrections in Alabama. It outlines the efforts that will be made over the next three years in four strategic focus areas: staffing, infrastructure, programming and culture.
Activities listed in the plan include:
• recruitment efforts to generate a fully staffed, high-quality workforce, including professional security, health care, and support personnel
• design, develop and construct large, new regional correctional complex(es)
• improve evidence-based rehabilitative programs for ADOC inmates
• develop a gender-based classification system
• launch a correctional work site wellness program
ADOC said it began the planning process in early 2018 and developed the plan based off feedback from staff, leadership, focus groups, interviews, and surveys. The Department of Justice opened an investigation into Alabama’s prisons in 2016, and in April DOJ released a letter describing the problems as “severe” and “systemic” and stating the attorney general might initiate a lawsuit if Alabama officials did not “satisfactorily address the issues.”
The state was required to outline its plan to fix all the problems, and DOJ was required to wait 49 days before taking any legal action. That period ended Tuesday.
ADOC has designated a task force team for each strategic focus area.
Lawmakers have said they realize more money needs to be put toward the prison system.
The Alabama House Democratic Caucus responded to the strategic plan saying, “Alabama’s plan to address the humanitarian crisis in our prisons must include more than simply building new facilities and hiring staff. House Democrats support a holistic, comprehensive criminal justice reform plan that includes serious sentencing reform, improved staff and leadership training, and increased accountability and oversight to address the culture of violence in our institutions."
A bill to give correctional officers pay raises and bonuses is moving through the legislature right now. Some lawmakers hope this will lower the turnover rate within the department and attract qualified employees.
On top of this, both Republicans and Democrats urged Ivey last week to call a special session to solve the understaffing and overcrowding problems. There could be a special session later this year.