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.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Robert Bentley says he's supportive of $250,000 added to the state General Fund budget for hiring a prison ombudsman in the governor's office.
Senate budget committee Chairman Arthur Orr added the money to the General Fund budget when his committee approved it on Wednesday. Orr says the ombudsman would start by focusing on complaints from inmates at Tutwiler Prison for women in Wetumpka. Some inmates at Tutwiler have complained about sexual abuse. Orr says the ombudsman would give the governor a direct line to what's going on in Tutwiler.
Prisons officials are adding surveillance cameras at Tutwiler prison and taking steps to increase some privacy for female prisoners.
In a report released this year, the U.S. Department of Justice criticized the operations of the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.
The report said the facility was not suited for housing female offenders since it offered them little privacy to shower, use the bathroom and had numerous blind spots that could make it possible for sexual activity to go undetected.
Alabama may be at risk of losing some of its federal prison funding if it doesn't respond to questions from the U.S. Department of Justice about sexual abuse.
AL.com reports federal officials sent letters to every governor last week asking if their state is complying with the Prison Rape Elimination Act — a federal law that was enacted in 2003 to crack down on sexual assault against prison inmates.
Allegations of inmate abuse at Alabama's female prison and an inmate being beaten to death at a male prison have pointed to a lack of security cameras in state prisons.
Testimony in a federal court trial in Montgomery has noted the lack of cameras to record what happened on the night inmate Rocrast Mack was beaten and stomped at Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton. Allegations of inmate abuse at Tutwiler Prison for Women led to a federal report pointing out the need for cameras. The Legislature voted recently to fund cameras for Tutwiler.