In early April, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report detailing the horrendous conditions in Alabama’s prisons. In the month since the report’s release, the New York Times states that three corrections officers have been attacked and at least one prisoner stabbed – probably one of the better months in Alabama prison annals. Prisoners have added their voices, as the Times interviewed several men sentenced to life without parole.
No One Feels Safe Here
As one prisoner’s handwritten letter begins, “No one feels safe here. Not the inmates, nor the officers.” It continues, “We all knew we were in trouble when they moved the population shift office to a barricaded, secure administrative area.” He states that supervisors up to the level of warden stand behind the secure area’s fence and tell inmates who have gone there seeking protection that they should “go get a knife.”
He adds, “No one feels safe here when there are hundreds of inmates roaming around and not an officer in sight.” No one informs inmates why veteran officers quit, or why new officers don’t last very long.
The Least Safe
In the Alabama prison system, young white males are at the greatest risk for sexual assault, and whites, in general, are more likely to have property stolen. Black inmates, however, are the most frequent victims of violence and most likely to die.
One inmate writes that many of the inmates are on drugs. These are usually “cheap” drugs that cause sickness as well as a high, with inmates “falling out and throwing up everywhere.” He states he’s had to stab, beat up or kill someone to get the point across that he’s not to be messed with – although “messed” is not the word he used.
No Outlets, No Motivation
One long-time inmate said in the early years of his incarceration, programs were available to help prisoners rehabilitate and improve character. Such programs no longer exist, and without these outlets and activities, more inmates suffer severe depression and morale plunges. The Alabama prison system also discouraged visitation and decreased privileges. There is no longer motivation for inmates to behave.
Another inmate referred to the Alabama prison system’s “embezzlement economy.” Because the contracting companies control the prices of all goods and services, everything is costly for prisoners. Those inmates with jobs are paid $3 daily. Embezzling from these jobs becomes a primary hustle. Kitchen workers are “paid” in food – but that means smaller meal portions for inmates.
One prisoner describes the overcrowding in his facility. He cites 44 beds placed in what was supposed to serve as a communal day space. There, rather than live in one cell with one roommate and a toilet, the 44 prisoners share three toilets. Overcrowding also results in more competition for what resources the prison does have, including phone, televisions, any type of exercise equipment – even the luxury of summertime ice in hot, steamy Alabama. That competition, in turn, leads to more violence.
Suffice to say that it’s past time the federal courts get involved in making major changes in Alabama’s prison culture.
Inmates have the right not to be abused. If you or a loved one has suffered mistreatment in jail or prison, you have legal options and may be entitled to compensation. CALL US at 866.836.4684 or Connect Online to learn how we can help you file a federal civil rights lawsuit.