Alabama Department of Corrections

SPLC

Alabama’s prison system has been in the news a lot this year, and not for good reasons. Violence, inmate riots, allegations of mismanagement and corruption and a failed prison building plan in the state legislature have all pointed out plenty of problems.

The Alabama Public Radio news team has spent the past several months examining what happens as people go into the state’s prison system and what happens when they come out.

Dunn says uprisings, death show need for new prisons

Nov 29, 2016

The state prison commissioner says outbreaks of violence, including the stabbing death of a corrections officer last month, illustrate the need for new state prisons

Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn made the remarks Tuesday as he briefed legislators on the governor's $800 million prison construction proposal. Dunn said the situation in state prisons has become urgent.

The proposal calls for the construction of three super-sized prisons for men and one for women. Most existing prisons would close.

Myron Thompson
Lloyd Gallman / Montgomery Advertiser

Mentally ill inmates held in Alabama’s prisons may soon be receiving better care thanks to a federal court.

Late last week, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson awarded class action status to a lawsuit on behalf of prisoners allegedly receiving inadequate medical care from the Alabama Department of Corrections. That means whatever decision is reached will extend not just to the prisoners named in the lawsuit, but all of the nearly 25,000 prisoners currently incarcerated in Alabama Department of Corrections facilities.

The state of Alabama is preparing to execute a death row inmate who was convicted in the 1982 killing of a man in a murder-for-hire arrangement.

Tommy Arthur is scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 6 p.m. this evening.

Arthur, now 74, was convicted of murdering Troy Wicker in 1982 as the man slept inside his Muscle Shoals home. Investigators said Arthur was having an affair with Wicker's wife. She later testified that she promised him $10,000 to kill her husband.

Holman Correctional Facility
Sharon Steinmann / AP

Yet another correctional officer has been assaulted at a troubled state prison in south Alabama.

The Alabama Department of Corrections says a lieutenant at Holman prison in Atmore was attempting to control an inmate when the man assaulted the officer with a makeshift weapon yesterday.

The officer was treated for a cut above his eye, and 27-year-old inmate Robert Washington has been charged with assault. He is currently serving 20 years for a robbery conviction in Montgomery.

Prison Reform: Alabama's overcrowding problem

Oct 14, 2016

Alabama’s prison system has been in the news a lot this year, and not for good reasons. Inmate riots, as well as allegations of mismanagement and corruption have pointed out plenty of problems. The Alabama Public Radio news team has spent the past several months examining what happens as people go into the state’s prison system and what happens when they come out. Today, APR’s MacKenzie Bates hears from critics of Alabama’s prisons are run and how plans to fix things may just throw money at the problem…

Department of Justice
Wikimedia

The U.S. Department of Justice is opening an investigation into the conditions at Alabama’s state prisons.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley released a statement yesterday sharing the Justice Department’s letter, and saying he welcomes a federal investigation into the state’s prisons. Bentley says both he and the DoJ share a common goal of wanting to improve the safety of officers and inmates in Alabama’s prisons. He also says past meetings with DoJ officials resulted in major improvements at the state’s Tutwiler Prison for Women.

Holman Correctional Facility
Sharon Steinmann / AP

At a state prison in south Alabama plagued by violence, some correctional officers are choosing not to show up for work.

Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Horton says six corrections officers called in sick for the third shift Sunday at William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. Nine officers failed to show up for the same shift last week. Three of those correctional officers have since resigned.

St. Clair Prison
Equal Justice Initiative

Five inmates were hospitalized last night after a fight broke out in a prison dormitory near Birmingham.

Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Horton says the disturbance began around 6 p.m. last night at St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Alabama. Horton says several inmates were involved in a fight in a prison dorm. Five of those inmates had to be removed from the prison and taken to a hospital for treatment. The prison is currently on lockdown and the incident is under investigation. Horton says it isn’t yet known if any weapons were used in the fight.

Holman Correctional Facility
Sharon Steinmann / AP

State Department of Corrections officials say an Alabama correctional officer was stabbed by an inmate yesterday at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore.

The agency says inmate Cleveland Cunningham was detained after the stabbing occurred just after noon yesterday in the facility's dining hall. The officer was airlifted to an off-site hospital and is currently in critical condition.

Prison officials say Cunningham assaulted the officer in retaliation for being denied extra food. The prison was placed on lockdown after the incident.

16th Street Baptist Church bombing
AP

Thomas Blanton was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences for the 1963 16th Street church bombing that killed four girls and injured another. He is eligible for parole today. APR student reporter Katie Willem has more.

At the age of 78, Blanton will have his first parole hearing after fifteen years in prison. While the attack happened in 1963, Blanton was not arrested until 2001. He was convicted for four counts of murder after the case was reopened.

Holman Correctional Facility
Sharon Steinmann / AP

Alabama Department of Corrections officials say a state prison was placed on lockdown yesterday after inmates set a fire inside a dorm.

A statement from the department says officers at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Ala. responded to a fight between inmates yesterday afternoon around 3 p.m. Other inmates then reportedly "became aggressive" toward the guards responding to the fight. The statement says officers secured the door of the dorm, and some inmates inside started a fire.

The federal government is looking to dismiss Alabama's lawsuit over refugee placement after a similar lawsuit failed in Texas.

A lawyer for the federal government filed a notice of the Texas decision with the court last month in the ongoing request to dismiss the Alabama case. Both Texas and Alabama sued the federal government in an attempt to prevent refugees from being resettled in the states.

Last month, a federal judge threw out the Texas lawsuit, ruling that the state had no authority over resettlements, which are handled entirely by the federal government.

A lockdown has been lifted at one Alabama prison where inmates had been refusing to work. At another facility, the strike is still on.

Alabama Department of Corrections officials say they’ve taken Elmore Correctional Facility off lockdown. Spokesman Bob Horton says about 80 percent of the 300 inmates who were striking at that facility have begun reporting to their assigned jobs again.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Corrections say two of the state’s prisons are on lockdown after inmates began refusing to complete assigned jobs.

A statement from the department says inmates at the William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore and the Elmore Correctional Facility first refused to help staff prepare breakfast on Sunday, then failed to report to assigned jobs on Monday.

Corrections officials are reporting more violence in Alabama’s prisons.

Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Horton says two inmates were stabbed at Draper Correctional Facility in Elmore earlier this week. Three inmates started fighting in a prison dorm, and one used a makeshift knife to stab the others. The inmate accused of the stabbing was transported to another prison.

Holman Correctional Facility
Sharon Steinmann / AP

The violence continues at a prison in south Alabama. APR’s Pat Duggins has more on the latest incident, and how it appears to be following a pattern.

The state Corrections Department says an inmate was stabbed by another prisoner at the Holman Correctional Facility.

The federal government is charging a major Hyundai automotive supplier in Selma for threatening to fire employees and close the plant to keep workers from unionizing.

Lear Corporation is a Fortune 500 company that owns a car seat manufacturing plant in Selma. National Labor Relations Board regulators accused the company of intimidating employees for trying to unionize. Workers say one of their main complaints is stagnant wages; many employees have been with Lear for decades and still make little more than $10 an hour.

Alabama’s embattled Department of Corrections is now being criticized for housing youth inmates in adult facilities.

41 youth offenders are currently locked up alongside adult inmates at corrections facilities in Alabama. That’s according to a report released earlier this month by the Campaign for Youth Justice, a national advocacy organization.

Carmen Daugherty is the policy director for the Campaign for Youth Justice. She says housing youth inmates alongside adults contributes to those youths landing back in prison in the future.

Elmore County Courthouse
courthouselover / Flickr

A probate judge in Alabama is asking the state's Supreme Court for a way out of issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Elmore County Probate Judge John Enslen filed a petition earlier this week saying the federal government should issue same-sex marriage licenses, not state or county offices. Enslen says the federal government is responsible for upholding and enforcing other laws created at the federal level.

A Selma-based auto supplier is continuing its lawsuit against a former employee they fired, after a Montgomery County judge ruled whistleblower protections don’t apply.

Birmingham's City Council president is defending the group’s recent decision to raise their salary from $15,000 to $55,000.

Some council members have said they have been asked to do full-time work on part-time pay.

Local media reports the nine-member council voted 8-1 to approve the raise last week and faced questions Tuesday night on the way the increase was handled. The vote was added last minute to a meeting agenda as an addendum and was passed with virtually no time for public comment.

An inmate at Staton Correctional Facility has tested positive for tuberculosis.

Prison medical staff say the inmate has been quarantined and is being treated in an infirmary.

Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Horton says the state Department of Public Health is testing all inmates at Staton for tuberculosis, but he says as of now there have been no other cases reported.

Alabama’s state prisons were built to hold 13,000 inmates. They currently house over 25,000.

That makes Alabama prisons among the most crowded in the nation, and state politicians fear the crowding may soon bring federal intervention to the troubled prison system.

In an effort to relieve some of the overcrowding, lawmakers approved changes to sentencing and probation standards this spring as well as a bond issue for additional prison beds. The changes include the creation of a lower level felony class and the planned hiring of 100 additional probation officers.

St. Clair Prison
Equal Justice Initiative

Alabama's new prison chief says nearly all of the challenges the Alabama Department of Corrections currently face are a result of overcrowding.

Retired Air Force Colonel Jefferson Dunn has been the Corrections Commissioner for less than two months, but he says it's clear that the massive overcrowding in Alabama's prison system contributes to prison security risks and staffing issues, as well as turnover in law enforcement.

St. Clair Prison
Equal Justice Initiative

15 inmates received medical treatment after a riot at St. Clair Correctional Facility Friday afternoon.

A correctional officer was assaulted during the prison's morning meal Friday. After the attack, the Alabama Department of Corrections' Correctional Emergency Response Team was sent to the prison. All inmates were ordered to return to their cells, but the occupants of one cell block refused.

Committee members throughout the Alabama Legislature have a busy day ahead of them.

The Senate Education Committee will hold a public hearing this morning on a bill aiming to repeal the Common Core curriculum standards.

The House Ways and Means Education Committee will also consider changes to the Alabama Accountability Act, a state program that provides scholarships to help some families pay for private school.

Alabama became the 37th state to legalize same-sex marriage yesterday.

Couples throughout Alabama have been applying for – and receiving – marriage licenses. But some judges are refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses, despite the threat of steep penalties.

Meredith Bagley and Alexandrea Davenport, both faculty at the University of Alabama, were married in Vermont five years ago, but they wanted to get an Alabama marriage license now that same-sex marriage is legal.

But when they went in to apply at the Tuscaloosa County Courthouse yesterday morning?

Washington Post

Alabama prisons are changing the way razors are distributed.

The change comes from an agreement with lawyers for inmates suing the state over medical care.  Attorneys had accused the state of giving razor blades to inmates who were known to be suicidal or mentally ill, leading to repeated suicide attempts.

Rivers A. Langley / Wikimedia Commons

An Alabama Department of Corrections veteran says she's using her position as deputy commissioner of women's services to improve worker education and inmate safety in women's prisons.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports the state Department of Corrections appointed Wendy Williams to serve as a deputy commissioner in April. Williams oversees the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, the Montgomery Women's Facility and Birmingham Work Release.

Federal officials have criticized Tutwiler and the state Department of Corrections for reports of sexual harassment and abuse.

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