From The Trussville Tribune staff reports
BIRMINGHAM — The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Alabama concluded on Wednesday that there is reasonable cause to believe that the conditions in Alabama’s prisons for men violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The department concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the men’s prisons fail to protect prisoners from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, and fail to provide prisoners with safe conditions.
As required by the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), the department provided Alabama written notice of the supporting facts for these alleged conditions and the minimum remedial measures necessary to address them, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“The Constitution guarantees all prisoners the right to be housed in safe conditions and not be subjected to violence and sexual abuse,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “Our investigation found reasonable cause to believe that Alabama fails to provide constitutionally adequate conditions and that prisoners experience serious harm, including deadly harm, as a result. The Justice Department hopes to work with Alabama to resolve the Department’s concerns.”
“This massive undertaking alleges constitutional troubles in the Alabama Department of Corrections which are serious, systemic, and in need of fundamental and comprehensive change,” U.S. Attorney Jay Town stated. “That being said, I have great confidence in the State of Alabama’s resolve to correct the prison system’s problems. The commitment by Governor Ivey, Commissioner Dunn, and so many others in the State’s leadership to affirmatively address these inherited issues offers great promise of our development of a meaningful remedy. Assistant United States Attorneys Lane Woodke, Jason Cheek, and Carla Ward from the USAO-NDAL Civil Division have helped to lead this statewide investigation spanning nearly three years.”
“An extraordinary amount of time and effort was expended to investigate this matter,” said U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin Sr. “Although the results of this investigation are disturbing, I look at this as an opportunity to acknowledge that the problems are real and need to be addressed immediately. We are committed to working with State officials to ensure that the Department of Corrections abides by its constitutional obligations.”
“The United States Constitution bans ‘cruel and unusual punishments’ but the conditions found in our investigation of Alabama prisons provide reasonable cause to believe there is a flagrant disregard of that injunction,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Moore. “The failure to respect the rule of law by providing humane treatment for inmates in Alabama prisons is a poor reflection on those of us who live and work in Alabama. We are better than this. We do not need to tarry very long assessing blame, but rather commit to righting this wrong and spare our State further embarrassment. The task is daunting, but one we must embrace now without reservation. I am confident that Governor Ivey and the Legislative leadership in the State of Alabama understand the nature of this inherited problem and that they are committed to sustainable solutions.”
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, The Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Offices for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Alabama initiated the investigation in October 2016 under CRIPA, which authorizes the department to take action when it has reasonable cause to believe there is a pattern or practice of deprivation of constitutional rights of individuals confined to state or local government-run correctional facilities.
The U.S. Department of Justice said this investigation was conducted by attorneys with the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Alabama. Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the department by phone at (877) 419-2366 or by email at USAALN.CivilRights@usa.doj.gov
. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.