Sunday, April 7, 2019
Beyond Neglect: Torture and Murder in Alabama Prisons
The New York Times headline read Alabama's Gruesome Prisons: Report Finds Rape and Murder at All Hours. The investigation into Alabama's male prison system began under the Obama administration with the bulk of the investigation continuing under the present administration. As the Times article notes, Alabama is not alone in deplorable conditions, but Alabama incarcerates in numbers greater than other jurisdictions and its conditions are "severe" with antiquated prisons housing nearly twice the number of individuals they were built to house. Photographs of the deplorable conditions may be found here. Reportedly, the Southern Poverty Law Center received a thumb drive containing over 2,000 photographs of gruesome prison conditions.
Most of Alabama's prisoners are not housed in safe conditions. Sleeping dorms contain no protections from violence and solitary confinement is used to house the most vulnerable prisoners.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said that her administration will work to address "mutual concerns" and to make certain that the Alabama problem has an "Alabama solution". Interpretation - the concerns were never mutual. The need for an Alabama solution tells her constituents that once again, Alabama will resist acknowledging the authority and will resent the interference of the federal government.
Example: according to one report, a proposed Alabama solution would have the state build much larger prisons. This is not exactly a solution that prisoner's lawyers are seeking. One representative of Southern Poverty Law Center responded: “You don’t need to build mega prisons, you need to increase the number of correctional officers that are working in your prison. You need to deal with issues of violence and sexual assault. You need to engage in more sentencing reform to further drive down the population, so that you’re not at 160 percent capacity. But, instead, the answer that we got was: build, build, build.”
Administrative self-reflection appears to be the missing link.