There’s a change at the top in Alabama’s troubled prison system, reports the Alabama Media Group. Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas has resigned today, and Air Force Col. Jefferson Dunn, an Alabama native who is working at Maxwell Air Force Base, will take over when he retires from the Air Force in March. Thomas spent a career working his way up through the prison system before being named commissioner in 2011. He has overseen a system that includes 15 prisons and more than a dozen smaller work centers.
Last year, the U.S. Justice Department told Gov. Robert Bentley it found conditions at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women unconstitutional because of a failure to protect inmates from sexual abuse and harassment by male guards. That followed reports by the Equal Justice Institute and the National Institute for Corrections on the same problems. The state has installed a security camera system at Tutwiler, improved privacy in showers, tried to recruit more female corrections officers and taken other steps. Overcrowding has been a constant in the state’s prisons since the 1990s. The inmate count, almost twice what the prisons were designed to hold, soared after a 1977 law mandated longer sentences for repeat offenders.