MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -
The Alabama Department of Corrections says a recent spike in inmate suicides is an ongoing concern and the department is working on a solution.
The prison system issued a statement Friday responding to criticisms from the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said he is focused on solving this problem.
The SPLC, which represents inmates in an ongoing lawsuit over mental health care, said Friday that 13 inmates killed themselves over 14 months, and said state officials have not taken enough action.
However, the prison system said the recent spike in suicides calls into "question the long-term effectiveness of the suicide prevention measures proposed by the SPLC" in the litigation.
An advocacy group says Alabama officials have failed to address a rising suicide rate in state prisons despite a federal court order to improve conditions for mentally ill inmates.
Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen said Friday it's an emergency the state must address.
The organization represents inmates in a lawsuit over mental health care and said there have been 13 suicides in 14 months.
The center criticized the state's developing effort to build or lease new prisons, saying money would be better spent on staffing.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to soon announce a construction proposal.
Sen. Cam Ward chairs a prison oversight committee and agreed the suicide rate is "higher than it should be." But Ward said the state is trying to address the issue.
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