MONTGOMERY — Alabama has made little progress in meeting a court order to dramatically increase the number of corrections officers working in state prisons, attorneys for state inmates told a federal judge Friday.

Attorneys from the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote in a court filing in an ongoing case over prison health care that the state has increased staff by only 25 officers over nearly two years, “less than 1.5% of the number of officers defendants are required to add by February 2022."

“Defendants have made little progress toward compliance with the court’s understaffing order," attorneys wrote. “Rather than demanding ‘praise' from the Court, Defendants should identify any other means by which the State of Alabama can address the deadly level of correctional understaffing that plagues Alabama prisons."

Attorneys said that the state had 1,517 correctional officers and supervisors in 2017 and had only 1,542 as of Sept. 20, 2019.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in 2017 ruled that mental health care in state prisons was "horrendously inadequate" and said that understaffing is an overarching issue behind the unconstitutional conditions. Thompson ordered the state to add about 2,000 officers.

A spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment, but the department has defended its progress in court filings.

Prison system officials have acknowledged they need to add correctional staff, and said they have stepped up recruiting and other efforts. In a court filing last month, the state said it has hired more than 300 basic correctional officers, a new position created to handle prison posts that do not involve firearms.

“The state’s prompt action and measurable success in recruiting new correctional staff merit praise," attorneys for the state wrote.

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