Stephen Brown, Chief of Staff of the Alabama Department of Corrections (ALDOC), met with the diocesan Commission on Prison Ministry June 13 and provided a cordial and candid overview of the department’s organization, policies, and challenges.
The mission of the Alabama Department of Corrections is “to confine, manage and provide rehabilitative programs for convicted felons in a safe, secure and humane environment, utilizing professionals who are committed to public safety and to the positive re-entry of offenders into society.” Brown said that there is currently a greater emphasis on confinement and security than rehabilitation and re-entry. This is largely due to the three major problems facing ALDOC:
Overcrowding. There are currently about 24,500 inmates in facilities designed to hold about 13,000. This is the highest overcrowding rate in the country, and has a major impact on the overall living conditions, health, safety, and rehabilitation of the inmates.
Facilities. All the Alabama state prisons are old (the newest one was built in 1969), with a maintenance and repair backlog of over $10 million.
Resources. ALDOC is chronically underfunded by the Alabama State Legislature. This translates in to insufficient staff, run-down facilities, poor living conditions for inmates, and inadequate programs to assist inmates as they return to society. ALDOC Industries produces goods for other government agencies, and generates about $15 million annually. However, new skills training and resources are necessary to help inmates prepare for employment after release.
Ed Richards is a vocational deacon serving with St. Thomas, Laguna Beach, and chair of the diocesan Commission on Prison Ministry. Wayne Verry is a member of St. Paul's, Foley, and a member of the Commission.