Alabama’s prison system spends $42 each day, per inmatePublished 11:00pm Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Alabama’s prison system is 90 percent over capacity.
Coupled with that, at any given time, one Department of Corrections officer could be in charge of up to 250 inmates in a dormitory.
That’s the reality Alabama’s Department of Corrections is facing.
“We need to draw attention to our staff,” said ADOC Commissioner Kim Thomas at the Pike County Republican Women’s luncheon Wednesday. “Working in corrections is not glamorous. We are not pretty, but we are very, very important.”
Thomas shared that ADOC operates 29 prisons with 26,067 prison beds in 18 counties and that 67 inmates in the system are from Pike County.
Despite the overcapacity and lack of funding, the ADOC is operating at a cost that is 25 percent less expensive than 23 years ago. Although the average daily cost per inmate nationally is $85.92, that amount in Alabama was $42.16 in 2010.
Thomas also presented a few other facts about running the state’s prisons and prison life. About 1.5 million honey buns were sold at prison canteens in 2011 and inmates purchased about 6,500 packs of chips each day. More than 4,000 offenders completed a substance abuse program and 750 received GEDs. An additional 1,319 were able to earn vocational education certificates.
“The average age of an inmate is 37 years old,” Thomas said. “Our prison population is getting older. In 1991, the age was 29. As the offender population gets older, you are going to see that number continue to rise and the cost of healthcare continue to rise.”
Even though the ADOC is keeping costs low, Alabama’s prison system can only stay afloat for so long. The system desperately needs more officers and to hire 11 more would equal $5 million. Facilities are in disrepair.
“We are holding on,” Thomas said. “We are in a stormy sea and the tide is rising. We can’t do this forever.”