DOJ files new complaint over Alabama prisons

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 6:34 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The U.S. Department of Justice ruled the conditions in Alabama’s prisons as unconstitutional three years ago. And today they are still waiting on action from the state.

Overcrowding, violence and “dangerously low” staff numbers are some of the largest issues in Alabama’s prison system that are detailed in the newest complaint from the DOJ.

“I think it’s just a continuation, obviously we haven’t had time to get these facilities built,” said Rep. Steve Clouse, sponsor of the state plan to improve the prison system.

The complaint goes into detail with instances of inmate-on-inmate violence and staff abusing inmates. The document states that “The State is deliberately indifferent to the serious and systemic constitutional problems present in Alabama’s Prisons for Men.”

“I think there’s some legitimacy to those complaints,” said Sen. Rodger Smitherman. “And just by the understaffing of guards alone, it will create opportunities for, unfortunately, for those kind of things to happen.”

The Alabama Department of Corrections said in a statement that the additional complaint “plainly ignores the years’ worth of information provided by the ADOC regarding the substantial and impactful reforms it continues to undertake.”

The complaint also does not mention the state’s plan for two new prisons and the improvement of others.

“It’s going to address the better conditions, better work conditions for our employees,” said Clouse. “And as we go on down the road, after the new prisons are built, the renovated prisons in Limestone and in Jefferson County, and one of the ones in Barbara County, will help with the overcrowding situation.”

However, some legislators still disapprove of this plan because they think more concrete steps should’ve been included.

“We have to provide additional incentives for people to take those jobs, whether we need to change the pay, whether we need to bring in additional medical staff, and exempt them the same way we do the doctors going into rural areas, whether we forgive loans,” said Smitherman.

Despite ongoing criticism, the prison construction project is expected to break ground in 2022 and could take five years to complete.

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