MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A report released this week by the Equal Justice Initiative with updated information regarding our Alabama prison system is alarming at best. Based on the findings contained in this report, the Alabama Department of Corrections has not made much, if any, substantive progress towards reducing an epidemic of violence, corruption and abuse in the prison system.
The 13 page report covers, in detail, the issues we continue to face with our dysfunctional Alabama prison system; a prison system leading the nation in negative metrics such as inmate homicide rates at three times the national average and assault rates on inmates increasing some 600 percent since 2008.
The obvious theme in this report - and obvious place to start - is with leadership and practices of accountability and reform (or lack thereof) at the state level with ADOC directors and locally at each prison facility with the wardens. Having stated the obvious, let's throw another obvious point on the table – why hasn't this already been addressed? Following the disgusting Tutwiler Prison for Women findings released earlier this year, and all the subsequent statements made by prison officials that change was forthcoming, we continue to move in the wrong direction.
So this is one recommendation, which is echoed in the EJI report: Set up an independent auditing force to hold all prison officials accountable to the high standards we must adhere to in our state prison system. This prison audit task force will report directly to the Governor of Alabama and will have the authority to "clean house" if any violation of policy is noted.
Getting Alabama prisons back on track is long overdue, and we can no longer turn our heads and pretend we don't have a major problem on our hands – as it obvious we do.