- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Retired Air Force Col. Jeff Dunn was sworn in Wednesday as Alabama’s corrections commissioner, taking the helm of the state’s severely crowded prison system, which has been plagued by accusations of abuse and inadequate medical care.

Gov. Robert Bentley said he specifically sought someone from the outside with “fresh eyes.”

“It is no secret that the Department of Corrections faces many challenges. We have made some positive reforms over the last four years. I know with Col. Dunn’s leadership these reforms will continue,” Bentley said.

Alabama prisons hold nearly twice the number of inmates they were originally designed to house. In December there were 24,680 inmates behind bars in in facilities built to hold 13,318.

The U.S. Department of Justice in 2014 told Bentley that inmates at the state’s only prison for women were subject to a toxic environment of sexual harassment and abuse. The state has also been sued by inmates who claim the state is failing to provide adequate medical care.

Bentley created a prison reform task force aimed at reducing crowding.

“As we move forward we will do our part to uphold the public trust with the highest standards of professionalism integrity and accountability,” Dunn said.

Dunn most recently served as commander of the Thomas Barnes Center for Enlisted Education at Maxwell Air Force Base. He is a 1986 graduate of Birmingham Southern College. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in March.

The Alabama Senate is expected to vote Thursday on a series of sentencing and probation changes aimed at reducing prison crowding. The proposals include steering low-level property and drug offenders away from prison through the creation of a new felony class.

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