Southern Poverty Law Center

Alabama’s prison system is on trial once again starting today.

The next phase of hearings regarding health and mental health care for Alabama state inmates begins today in Montgomery. Back in June, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson ruled the system was “horrendously inadequate” and had to change. These hearings are all about how Alabama’s Department of Corrections plans to make those changes.

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 spent several months in a national award-winning effort examining what happens as people go into the state’s prison system and what happens when they come out.

Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker will have his own day in court after all.

U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins recently ruled against dismissing Justice Parker’s contention that certain state restrictions on judges' speech violate their First Amendment rights.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says it has added Heather Heyer's name to its Wall of Tolerance at the Civil Rights Memorial Center.

 The SPLC said on its website Friday that it had added a tribute to Heyer to its center in Montgomery, Alabama.

leagueofthesouth.com

Some white Southerners are again advocating for what the Confederacy tried and failed to achieve in the 1860s: secession from the Union.

 

So-called Southern nationalists are among the demonstrators who are fighting the removal of Confederate monuments around the South. They say it's time for Southern states to secede again and become independent of the United States.

An Alabama county's judges, sheriff and circuit clerk have been sued for allegedly violating the constitutional rights of people charged with misdemeanors and felonies by jailing them if they can't afford to pay bail.

 The lawsuit notes that those who face the same charges but can afford the bail amounts are freed until trial.

Lawmakers in both chambers of Alabama’s legislature are debating changes to payday loans in the state.

Dueling bills in both the House and the Senate each aim to reform short-term lending in Alabama, but they go about it in different ways.

Draper inmates
Albert Cesare / Montgomery Advertiser

The state Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a plan to build four new, massive prisons in Alabama this afternoon.

The bill would authorize Alabama’s Department of Corrections to build three massive new men’s prisons and a new women’s prison, and would close over a dozen of the state’s existing prison facilities.

It would be financed by an $800 million bond issue that would leave the state paying $50 million a year for thirty years. Supporters including Governor Robert Bentley say the new prisons would save about that much money in operating costs.

Mark Potok
SPLC

The news headlines over the past year have been dominated by tensions. Conflicts over illegal immigration, refugee resettlement, terrorism and community race relations all led to deep divisions nationwide. Those conflicts also became the center of a bitterly contested Presidential election.

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently released its latest list and analysis of extremist and hate groups nationwide, and it appears that climate bred new hate groups.

Mark Potok is a senior fellow with the SPLC. He’s the primary editor of their HateWatch list and wrote an analysis of this year’s results.

The fight over the legality of same-sex marriage in Alabama is finally, officially over. And as the cases wrap up, state taxpayers will be on the hook for the legal fees.

U.S. District Judge Callie Granade has ordered that the state of Alabama will pay over $300,000 in legal fees to several organizations including the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama. They provided representation for litigants challenging Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Tutwiler Prison
Dave Martin / AP

The Alabama Department of Corrections has agreed to put new suicide prevention measures in place after an inmate killed himself days after testifying on alleged inadequate mental health care in state prisons.

An Alabama inmate who complained about poor mental health care in state prisons has been found dead in an apparent suicide.

24-year-old Jamie Wallace suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He told jurors in a class action lawsuit against the Department of Corrections he wasn’t asked about his mental health status upon entering prison. Wallace attempted suicide multiple times, and said a prison guard once gave him a razor to use to kill himself.

Testimony is set to begin today in a massive lawsuit alleging inmates in Alabama’s prisons aren’t receiving the minimum level of health care guaranteed by the Constitution.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson is set to begin hearing the non-jury, class-action lawsuit later today. It was originally filed by a group of inmates against the Alabama Department of Corrections back in 2014.

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.

Ambrosia Starling
Alex AuBuchon / APR

Roy Moore is no longer serving as the Chief Justice of Alabama.

On September 30, a majority of the Alabama Court of the Judiciary decided to suspend Moore for the remainder of his six-year term as punishment for ethics violations. The charges relate to Moore’s role in the controversy over same-sex marriage in Alabama.

APR’s Alex AuBuchon has been following the Chief Justice’s case. He has this report on reactions to the trial and what may be coming next.

Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is set to appear in court tomorrow morning. He’s facing judicial ethics violations that could result in his removal from the state Supreme Court. The charges date back to the legal controversy and confusion over same-sex marriage in Alabama earlier this year, and Moore’s personal battle against it.

Chief Justice Moore has some history with this court. In 2003, he was removed from office for unrelated judicial ethics violations. APR’s Alex AuBuchon has the latest on Chief Justice Moore’s case and what to expect tomorrow.

Suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore will appear before the Alabama Court of the Judiciary this afternoon.

Moore is facing judicial ethics violations that could result in his removal from the head of the Alabama Supreme Court. The charges stem from an order Moore gave the state's probate judges back in January encouraging them not to issue same-sex marriage licenses. That was in defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide.

Kairos Center

New poverty statistics paint a sobering picture for the state of Alabama.

The nonprofit organization Alabama Possible recently released their 2016 State Poverty Data Sheet. It reveals more than 900 thousand Alabamians currently live in poverty. Though it’s an issue across the state, conditions are especially grim in Alabama’s Black Belt. In Perry County, for example, nearly half the county’s residents live below the poverty line.

Alabama’s Chief Justice could soon be kicked out of office, again, due to his defiance of a federal court order. APR’s Alex AuBuchon has more about the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission’s investigation.

The commission is investigating six counts of judicial ethics violations against Chief Justice Roy Moore. The charges stem from an order Moore issued in January instructing all of the state’s probate judges not to issue same-sex marriage licenses, defying a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The fate of Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is with the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission. The panel filed six counts of judicial ethics violations against Moore and suspended him from office pending an investigation.

The charges stem from an order he issued to all of the state’s probate judges instructing them not to issue same-sex marriage licenses. The order was issued in January, six months after and in direct defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.

The Alabama Senate has passed a Constitutional amendment reinforcing Alabama's position as a so-called "right-to-work" state. APR’s Stan Ingold has more.

Senators passed the amendment 25 votes to 9. Alabama voters will now have the chance to approve the amendment at the ballot box in November.

Right-to-work states prohibit companies from requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Alabama law already has the prohibition, but Republicans say adding the amendment to the state Constitution will give businesses additional assurances.

Governor Robert Bentley’s plan to construct four new prisons is moving on through the state legislature, but not without a few red flags. APR’s MacKenzie Bates explains.

The Senate Budget Committee sent Governor’s Bentley’s prison building plan to the full Senate. The committee approved the bill yesterday in wake of two violent uprisings at a South Alabama prison. Governor Bentley blames the incidents on overcrowding.

Senator Cam Ward says those situations show that the state desperately needs new prisons.

The Alabama House is debating on proposed legislation that would prevent cities from setting local minimum wages.

The Republican-backed bill is on the legislative fast track as the city of Birmingham seeks to expedite a minimum wage increase approved last year for all workers within the city limits.

Birmingham leaders sought to raise the city's hourly minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017 and planned to begin with an $8.25 minimum wage March 1.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has its own wish list for the current legislative session.

The SPLC’s 2016 Legislative Guide focuses on issues like education, economics and equal rights. The guide doesn't just outline problems; it also offers possible solutions.

Rhonda Brownstein is the legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. She says more state money needs to be allocated to education, not jails.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley recently announced that he is suing the federal government over refugees settling in his state.

Governor Bentley argues the U.S. government hasn’t provided Alabama enough information about the refugees to be placed in the state. Bentley says he’s filing the lawsuit out of concern for the safety of Alabama’s residents.

Kristi Graunke is a senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center. She says the federal government takes their vetting process seriously.

Federal prosecutors say Alabama’s probate judges should continue issuing same sex marriage licenses, despite the actions of the state’s chief justice. APR’s Pat Duggins spoke to one group that thinks Roy Moore should be kicked out of office, again.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint against Roy Moore with the state’s Judicial Ethics Panel. This comes after Moore suggested that probate judges defy the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same sex marriage.

Alabama’s Chief Justice Roy Moore is once again suggesting that gay marriage is illegal in Alabama, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

Moore issued an administrative order yesterday advising probate judges not to issue licenses to same-sex couples. He says the state Supreme Court never lifted its directive from March advising judges to abide by the Alabama constitution.

Dothan’s police department is under scrutiny after a blog post alleged officers planted drugs and weapons on suspects for nearly a decade.

The Henry County Report, a blog run by the nonprofit Alabama Justice Project, claims the group obtained documents indicating more than a dozen officers on a special narcotics team routinely planted evidence in cases against young black men.

Jurors hearing the federal retrial of former Madison police officer Eric Parker will be back in court today for a fourth day of deliberations.

Jurors will return to court this morning after telling U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala they were once again unable to come to a unanimous decision in the civil rights case.

The judge is trying to avoid a second mistrial for Parker on charges of violating the rights of 58-year-old Sureshbhai Patel by using excessive force during a police stop in February. Parker's first trial ended in a hung jury.

Barry Electric Plant
Wikimedia

Alabama’s power plants are burning less coal and a lot more natural gas, and one group of scientists has taken notice.

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a report today analyzing each state’s current and future dependence on natural gas as a fuel source. Alabama was one of six states deemed at high risk of over-reliance in nearly every aspect of the study.

John Rogers is a senior energy analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists. He thinks power companies need to make smarter and more balanced investments, instead of going all-in on natural gas.

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