prison understaffing

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama House of Representatives has approved a pay raise for correctional officers as Alabama faces a federal court order to increase prison staff.

Representatives voted 92-0 Tuesday night to give officers a 5% pay increase, expand bonuses and create a payout program for unused annual leave.

Rep. Chris England of Tuscaloosa said the changes could add up to about $10,000 in more pay for officers.

A federal judge has ordered the department to add about 2,200 correctional officers.

Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn says his department needs additional funding to hire 500 more corrections officers.

Dunn discussed the request Wednesday during budget hearings before state lawmakers. He says the agency is seeking a $42 million funding increase, part of which would be used to add officers and to raise officers' pay. Dunn argues there is a direct correlation between the department's staffing shortage and "unacceptably high" rates of violence in prisons.

Alabama’s prison system is on trial once again starting today.

The next phase of hearings regarding health and mental health care for Alabama state inmates begins today in Montgomery. Back in June, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled the system was “horrendously inadequate” and had to change. These hearings are all about how Alabama’s Department of Corrections plans to make those changes.