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Prison system graduates new class of correctional officers

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Department of Corrections on Friday will graduate its first class of a new category of corrections officer as the state tries to address a prison staffing shortage.

Sixty-one basic correctional officers will graduate from the Alabama Corrections Academy in Selma.

The prison system created the new position of basic officer this year to speed the hiring of security staff. The program has easier entry requirements, and graduates can do some, but not all of the tasks, handled by correctional officers.

The basic correctional officer will perform duties such as supervising inmates and dormitories, conducting searches, working dining halls, managing laundries and other functions requiring inmate supervision, prison system spokeswoman Samantha Banks said. The officers will also assist with educational and vocational opportunities and providing rehabilitative services.

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The officers attend a six-week academy.

Alabama has been grappling with a shortage of correctional officers working in state prisons.

A federal judge in an ongoing case over prison mental health care ordered the state to increase staff. The staffing shortage was also one of the major problems cited by the Department of Justice earlier this year when it alleged conditions in Alabama prisons for men violate the U.S. Constitution.

The state is attempting to hire as many as 500 officers within a year to comply with the court order to add about 2,000 officers by 2020.

The state has also raised salaries in an effort to increase staff.

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