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DOJ: Unimproved Alabama prisons remain violent and murderous

MONTGOMERY, Alabama (AP) – The US Department of Justice says conditions in Alabama prisons have not improved since the federal government warned the state of unconstitutional conditions three years ago and that male prisoners continue to live in deadly and dangerous conditions.

Last Friday, the Justice Department filed an updated complaint in its ongoing lawsuit against Alabama over the conditions of detention. Justice Ministry officials wrote that violence is not abating in facilities that are both overcrowded and “dangerously” understaffed.

“In the two and a half years since the United States first notified the State of Alabama of the unconstitutional conditions of detention, inmates in Alabama men’s prisons continued to be at high risk on a daily basis. death, physical violence and sexual abuse at the hands of other prisoners, ”the Department of Justice wrote in the complaint signed by US Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The lawsuit accuses the state of running prisons where conditions are so bad they violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and accuses state officials of being willfully indifferent to the situation. While Alabama has acknowledged the problems in state prisons, the state is challenging the Justice Department’s allegations of unconstitutional conditions and is fighting the trial in court.

The latest Justice Department case came after a federal judge ordered the department to be more specific on its charges. The file indicated that dozens of detainees had been killed by other detainees in recent years and listed some of the specific incidents.

In one case, a 53-year-old prisoner in Donaldson died after being strangled and a note was found on the prisoner indicating that he feared for his life because another prisoner ordered him to “shoot” him. writes officials.

The record indicates that at least 33 inmates were killed behind bars in 2018, 2019 and 2020. While the department reported no homicides in 2021 in monthly reports, at least 10 inter-prisoner homicides “were reported by media and lawyers during the calendar year. 2021, ”the officials wrote. The prison system does not include deaths that are still under investigation in its figures.

The Department of Justice recorded seven homicides of detainees in 2021 where prisoners were stabbed, suffocated or suffocated to death.

The Associated Press sent a registration request in September asking for the number of inmate deaths being investigated as potential homicide. The department responded on Nov. 2 that it had “not called the investigation into a death a ‘potential homicide’, so we cannot provide that information.”

The Justice Department wrote that there is a pattern of excessive force on the part of prison guards that is fueled by a dangerous mix of overcrowded prisons and too few officers.

“Overloaded security personnel in overcrowded prisons lack sufficient backing and support to manage prison security, resulting in increased fear of officers of prisoner threats and excessive force,” the department wrote.

The department said that “most prisons in Alabama had correctional vacancy rates of more than 50%” in the first quarter of 2021. The Department of Justice also described a litany of safety and security concerns. ‘sanitation with the buildings, including that “not one of Alabama’s 13 men’s prisons has a working fire alarm system.

A state lawmaker, who called for the sacking of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn, said on Wednesday the prison system was in crisis.

“I’ve said it a million times. There is no leadership there, ”said Representative Chris England, a Democrat from Tuscaloosa.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey enacted a plan this fall to use $ 400 million in pandemic relief funds to help build two 4,000-bed prisons and a new women’s prison and renovate other facilities.

Ivey and the GOP legislative leaders have touted the construction plan as a partial solution to the state’s long-standing problems in corrections. Critics argued that buildings alone would not solve prison problems and said the state has health care and education needs that could be helped by the $ 400 million.


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