Equal Justice Initiative alleging abuse at male prisons in AL

Equal Justice Initiative's Bryan Stevenson
Equal Justice Initiative's Bryan Stevenson
DOC Commissioner Kim Thomas
DOC Commissioner Kim Thomas

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - First came the allegations of abuse against female inmates. Now, new reports - involving male inmates - are being lodged in a scathing complaint released by the Equal Justice Initiative.

The EJI is alleging that officers at an Alabama prison handcuffed, stripped and beat state prisoners. A previous report alleged abuse at Tutwiler Prison for women.

The new complaint claims widespread violence at the Elmore County Correctional Facility, as well as at Donaldson and Bibb correctional facilities. The EIJ says it turned over DNA evidence that will prove corrections officers were also engaging in sexual misconduct.

This is the third complaint filed by the EJI in the last two years concerning the abusive treatment of inmates inside Alabama's prisons.

"There has to be a real effort to manage this kind of behavior," says EJI Executive Director Bryan Stevenson, "and we haven't seen that yet."

Stevenson says he first received word of the widespread abuse at Elmore County Correctional Facility at the beginning of the year, and the call volume has only increased.

"Stripped naked, handcuffed, and beaten to the point where he had to be taken to an outside hospital for very serious medical injuries," Stevenson said of one of the prisoners.

Based on Stevenson's investigation, some of the same officers who engaged in the abuse at Tutwiler Women's Facility are now working at Elmore. And they're showing the same behavior.

"Didn't find anything to substantiate that..." said State Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas. Thomas met with Stevenson about his investigation two months ago, but despite the findings, the allegations did not yield a major investigation. Only one incident is currently being looked into. This time, by the Alabama Attorney General's office, at the request of the DOC. There's no word on the timeline of the investigation.

"We are going back to look at some of those other incidents that are similar in nature to that to assess whether or not the first investigation really uncovered everything that we needed to uncover," Thomas said. Thomas says this investigation is proof he is running a transparent operation.

"We have had to bring in federal investigators and prosecutors in the past," Stevenson says. "We've sometimes had to resort to litigation," he added. "Those are last steps that I would like to avoid."

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