MONTGOMERY (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey convened a new criminal justice commission as the state tries to avoid a Department of Justice lawsuit over prison conditions.

Ivey said Monday that the Governor's Study Group on Criminal Justice will study possible solutions for the state's longstanding prison problems. The group will gather data on sentencing laws, recidivism and policies.

The panel met for the first time Monday.

The Department of Justice earlier this year condemned Alabama prisons for unconstitutional levels of violence and inmate deaths and threatened to file a lawsuit unless conditions are approved.

Ivey told reporters that the state is working hard to avoid litigation and is making progress in its negotiations with the Justice Department.

Alabama faces a separate court order to boost prison staffing.

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