The debate continues at the State House on how to reform the state’s prison system after a deadly fight leaves 7 inmates dead. A new subcommittee created to review prison safety, met for the first Thursday to address the issues behind bars.
The subcommittee will focus on several areas while reviewing the Department of Corrections including employee morale, transparency, staffing and training and response.
The most recent incident left 7 inmates at Lee Correctional dead and revealed deeper problems with contraband, staffing and morale in the department. Problems the director says isn’t new, “This did not happen overnight..where we are… this is decades in the making,” said Bryan Stirling.
So the group is trying to reverse the damage. For starters, they are proposing a messaging system so employees and inmates can talk privately to lawmakers about their issues.
“People will say things behind the doors behind closed doors that they will not say in public because they’re afraid of what may happen to them,” explained Senator Rex Rice.
Members want to also review staff training. The deadly prison fight showed a lag in response time and need for change in routine. Senator Karl Allen is hoping this subcommittee will find ways to improve response times.
Senator Allen added, “Hopefully we’ll come up with a way that staff at the local level can address the situation a little bit quicker until reinforcement arrives.”
But even with a boost in morale and change in training, Director Stirling fears it may not be enough to fix the real issue, which is not having enough officers.
“I’ve talked about this multiple times, I’ve talked to the media about this several times about our staffing issues,” pleaded Stirling.
The subcommittee will hold public hearings across the state to get more insight. They’re hoping to have a blueprint for the messaging system in the next few days.
The department still needs about 600 officers before it can be staffed at appropriate levels.