Last week, the Alabama Department of Corrections announced a competitive pay increase for Alabama correctional officers as the state addresses a rough year in Alabama jails and prisons, including high death rates and a high-profile lawsuit against Alabama jail officers.
Alabama’s correctional facilities were recently in the national spotlight for a lawsuit against Walker County Jail staff when 33-year-old Anthony Mitchell was allegedly placed in a restraint chair and left in a walk-in freezer for hours and later died.
The federal complaint filed last month against the sheriff’s office and jail staff claims that this may have been punishment after some deputies had “a time with Tony.”
Mitchell died on January 26, leading his attorneys to describe his death as one of the most appalling cases of jail abuse seen in the country. Walker County Jail has had a string of abuse cases, Audrey Conklin reports for Fox News.
Alabama male prisons have been under scrutiny by the Department of Justice following a 2020 lawsuit claiming “Unconstitutional Conditions in State Prisons for Men” because “Alabama fails to provide adequate protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, fails to provide safe and sanitary conditions, and subjects prisoners to excessive force at the hands of prison staff.”
More recently, reports surfaced regarding what the Equal Justice Initiative called the worst year for Alabama prisons where more incarcerated people died in Alabama in 2022 than any year in recent history. With the Equal Justice Initiative calling a lot of the deaths preventable.
As recently as March 9, the Equal Justice Initiative reported on horrific conditions in Alabama prisons.
The Alabama Department of Corrections has reported severe overcrowding and overstaffing for years, with the Department of Justice concluding as part of a pre-pandemic investigation in 13 maximum-security prisons in the state that understaffing, culture and management deficiencies contributed the systems’ poor conditions.
Alabama’s prison staffing numbers have also been dropping for years. In 2022 the state saw their net loss of security personnel increase from 197 staff members in 2021 to 415.
Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm announced the pay increases and new pay grades last week for correctional officers statewide.
The move is part of a plan to strengthen recruiting and retention efforts by increasing the starting salary for correctional officer trainees to $50,712 at work release/community work centers, $53,245 at medium security facilities and $55,855 at maximum security facilities.
Current officers will also receive pay grade and salary increases with the addition of a new promotional classification called Correctional Security Guard Senior. Location differentials have also been expanded to include support staff in addition to correctional officers.
“While I am proud of our successes so far, they represent the beginning of an ambitious agenda. Some of the projects we have prioritized but are not limited to, are building new prison facilities; implementing a modern inmate management system; streamlining the correctional officer hiring, retention, and training processes; and actively supporting the reinstatement of Tier one retirement benefits for all employees,” Hamm said last week.
The salary increase is about a $20,000 improvement, according to Indeed, which reports that Alabama’s current average correctional officer salary of $31,305 is 25 percent below the national average. California, New Jersey and Massachusetts boast some of the highest average salaries of correction officers at more than 70,000 according to the U.S Bureau of Statistics with southern states generally showing some of the lowest wages.