SPLC sues State of Alabama over prison conditions - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

SPLC sues State of Alabama over prison conditions

SPLC announces lawsuit against Department of Corrections SPLC announces lawsuit against Department of Corrections
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a Montgomery-based civil rights group, and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP) are filing a federal lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Corrections in regards to prison conditions they say deny inmates basic health care and put lives at risk.

Forty inmates are named as plaintiffs in the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama Tuesday.

[DOCUMENT: Lawsuit filed against ADOC (.pdf)]

The suit claims inmates, some with disabilities or physical/mental illnesses, were confined to prisons where discrimination and often-times life-threatening conditions were normal.

Among the issues cited in the suit, the ADOC is accused of having a policy of not treating hepatitis C, and the suit says more than 2,220 inmates were diagnosed with the disease in April but only seven were being treated. One person is said to have died.

Other complaints include accusations that guards taunted blind or wheelchair-bound inmates, retaliation against inmates who spoke with SPLC officials, and claims that prisoners are being placed under "do not resuscitate" or "allow natural death" orders without their knowledge.

"We have the most overcrowded prisons in the nation," said Maria Morris, an attorney for the SPLC. "We spend the least. State officials have known about it. Because lives hang in the balance, that is why we filed this lawsuit today."

When reached for comment by WSFA 12 News, the Alabama Department of Corrections declined a request for an on-camera interview with Director Kim Thomas, citing his schedule. The ADOC did release this written statement:

"Obviously we are disappointed, but not surprised, that the Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program have chosen to discontinue working with us and instead are insistent upon expensive, time-consuming litigation.

We cannot discuss specifics since this matter is now pending litigation, but as we've stated, we believe that many of their allegations are grossly inaccurate and appear to be based on incomplete information. The Alabama Department of Corrections stands ready to present the facts related to the quality medical and mental health care that Corizon and MHM provide within the prison system, and fully defend that level of care in court."

"We're a civilized society. That's why federal law prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities," said William Van Der Pol Jr., ADAP staff attorney. "This discrimination must be addressed."

The suit comes a week after a pair of reports released detailing conditions on Alabama's corrections facilities were strongly refuted by the ADOC. Governor Robert Bentley said much of the violence in the state's prisons could be solved with an increase in staffing, but the state does not provide enough money for prisons as it currently stands.

Bentley has announced a Prison Reform Task Force aimed as easing the state's overcrowded prisons, which are at 192 percent capacity.

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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