----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2003 1:11 PM
Subject: Chief asks state for $330M
Chief asks state for $330M
The department also requested $29.2 million to supplement this year's budget
By Mike Sherman
Facing a deteriorating prison system and court orders to improve it, Alabama's new prison commissioner wants $330 million from the state General Fund for the budget year that will begin Oct. 1.
The increase of $125.8 million includes $60 million to replace Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women near Wetumpka, the state's only female prison.
Donal Campbell, named commissioner in January by Gov. Bob Riley, told lawmakers at joint legislative budget hearings that his department also needs $29.2 million in supplemental funding for the current budget year, in addition to a $204 million General Fund appropriation.
"This department has operated for many years underfunded. We will continue to operate, but we will continue to deteriorate," Campbell said.
He said that most of the system's 18 major prisons and 14 work-release centers are operating at twice their design capacity.
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson has ruled that Tutwiler is an unconstitutionally overcrowded "ticking time bomb." The state must submit a plan for a remedy by Friday.
In separate state court action, Montgomery County Circuit Judge William Shashy has ordered the state to expand inmate space and increase paroles to relieve overcrowding elsewhere.
The request for the $29.2 million appropriation for this year includes $9.9 million for conversion of space, additional overtime and direct inmate costs in the case before Shashy.
Campbell told lawmakers the department also faces an unexpected personnel problem. About 400 correctional employees out of about 2,600 are in the National Guard or military reserves and could be activated before the end of the year. As of Feb. 12, 146 correctional officers had been activated and 26 were on standby status.
Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, asked Campbell, "Where are we on overfilling positions of those called?"
"We are aggressively trying to fill those positions," Campbell said.
Bedford asked Campbell how he would deal with the vacancies until new officers could be trained.
"Overtime," Campbell said.
The commissioner said he had not spoken directly to Gov. Bob Riley about the supplemental appropriation request, but expects him to support it "if he determines it is appropriate."
In a separate presentation, the state Medicaid Agency asked for $333 million from the General Fund for next year, an increase of $111 million.