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Overtime up at ADOC, state agencies as staffing struggles continue


The Alabama Department of Corrections is spending more on overtime — $34.6 million through late-June of this fiscal year — as it works to recruit and keep prison staff.

In 2022, ADOC paid workers $39.9 million in overtime, according to information from the Alabama Department of Personnel shared with Alabama Daily New. Overtime at several state agencies is up, totaling more than $48.1 million across all General Fund-supported departments through late June and with more than three months left in the fiscal year. In 2022, the total was $58.4 million. By comparison, it was $35.7 million in fiscal 2019.

Agencies with the most OT through late June:

  • Corrections: $34.6M
  • State law enforcement: $4.5M
  • Transportation: $3.3M
  • Mental health: $1.9M
  • Veterans affairs: $999,949

Staffing shortages and workforce issues have been a conversation theme among agency leaders and state budget makers in the last year. Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, said at departments like mental health and human resources, which work with people in crisis, well-trained staff is critical.

“They’re the ones called up late at night and early in the morning and then going to court the very next day,” Albritton, chair of the Senate General Fund committee, told ADN.  “The work hours are just terrible and that’s not conducive to hiring and maintaining personnel.”

And current staffing shortages go well beyond Alabama or state agencies, he said.

“This is a national problem,” Albritton said.

In the case of mental health, Albritton has said there needs to be a pipeline of employees entering the agency.

“My focus is trained employees, people who want to work and are dedicated to the work,” he said.

ADOC overtime

Overtime at ADOC has increased steadily in recent years. The department paid $27.6 million in overtime in 2016, according to ADN records. Corrections’ growing amount of overtime pay is in large part due to the ongoing staffing shortages, as well as overcrowding, factors that also led to a federal lawsuit that alleges Alabama’s prison inmates are subject to inhuman conditions

An ADOC spokesperson told Alabama Daily News that beyond limited resources, “compliance with court-ordered requirements” also played a role in the increase in overtime pay, however, overtime pay is expected to reduce over time as the department ramps up its hiring efforts.

John Hamm, commissioner of the ADOC, says his department is working to solve its staffing issues and headed in the right direction.

During a recent meeting of the Joint Prison Oversight Committee, Hamm said ADOC had hired 61 correctional officer trainees for the department’s third of four yearly training academy classes. The latest figures show improvement over last year’s numbers where the ADOC had just 86 new correctional officer hires complete the Training Academy in 2022.

Pay for prison staff also increased this year in March, with starting pay for correctional officer trainees rising from $33,381 to a minimum of $50,712, and higher amounts for more senior staff. Hamm said the increased pay has already resulted in former correctional officers coming back to work for the ADOC, approximately 25 people, and that his department has launched a direct mail campaign targeting former staff for re-recruitment.

“Our recruiting efforts are really going well now, so we anticipate by the time we start our fall class, those applicant numbers will certainly rise,” Hamm said.

Hamm added that the ADOC currently has 821 applications for correctional officer trainee positions at major facilities, and 350 applications for correctional security guard positions.

The latest required reports from ADOC show it had 1,705 security personnel, including wardens, as of late March. That’s down from 2,105 in December 2021.

Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville, the chairman of the committee, noted the recent success in improved staffing, but urged Hamm to be proactive in recruiting efforts.

“That is one of our primary concerns from a legislative point of view, so I would just encourage you and your staff to continue thinking, because the trajectory being in the green for the first time in a while is great, but when if it gets back into the red, that’s too late for us to come up with a new idea,” he said.

Lawmakers last year approved the construction of two mens’ prisons and Albritton said they’re expected to improve conditions for inmates and staff alike.

“As far as prison staffing goes, you’re not going to get anywhere until you make it safe for people to go to work and come home,” Albritton told ADN.

He said in recent months ADOC officials in conversations with him “seem to be hopeful” the pay increase, as well as legislation to allow retirees to earn more as correctional officers, is helping the staffing situation.

Meanwhile, the prison population has continued to rise, with Hamm saying it has “been increasing a little bit every month, so we anticipate this trajectory to continue for quite some time.”

As of June, the number of people incarcerated under the ADOC is at a three-year high at around 20,600. Prison population saw a decline from September 2020 through May 2021 with a low number of around 17,300, in part because of pandemic-related changes that kept inmates in county jails,  before the increase that persists today.

Whether the ADOC’s efforts at improving staffing shortages will be sufficient remain to be seen, with Chambliss noting that from a legislative perspective, prison staffing continues to be a “priority issue” for lawmakers.


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