The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently released a report <[link removed]> that detailed horrific brutality committed by corrections staff against people incarcerated within Alabama’s prisons.
The report provides disturbing detail about the use of excessive force by corrections staff. One account describes how a corrections officer exclaimed he was “the reaper of death,” as he beat a handcuffed person incarcerated at the Ventress Correctional Facility. The incident was recounted by four nurses at the facility who either heard or saw the beating.
Just this week, the DOJ indicted <[link removed]> four corrections officers on excessive force and obstruction of justice charges in the 2018 beating of another incarcerated person at Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent, Alabama.
As shocking as the report may be to some, those of us familiar with the state’s prison system are, sadly, not surprised by these findings. They only confirm what people incarcerated in Alabama’s prisons, their families and advocates have long known: There is a consistent pattern of neglect and blatant disregard for the law in Alabama’s prisons, which are notoriously overcrowded. And, these prisons are understaffed by undertrained correctional officers who are often corrupt and routinely demonstrate a lack of professionalism.
Alabama is a prime example of the dire human toll inflicted by our nation’s broken and racist criminal justice system, which has filled prisons beyond capacity and disproportionately with people of color. As the Prison Policy Initiative has reported <[link removed]>, Black people are significantly overrepresented in this country’s prisons and jails: Black people constitute only 13% of U.S. residents but are a staggering 40% of the incarcerated population. What’s more, the overcrowding and underfunding of these facilities has been a recipe for disaster that has cost human lives. The Southern Poverty Law Center has worked throughout the Deep South to bring critical criminal justice reform.
In 2014, the SPLC sued <[link removed]> the Alabama Department of Corrections for systemically putting the health and lives of incarcerated people at risk by ignoring their medical and mental health needs and discriminating against those with disabilities. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in 2017 declared the mental health care system in Alabama prisons to be “horrendously inadequate” – an unconstitutional failure that has resulted in a “skyrocketing suicide rate” among those who are incarcerated.
The DOJ had previously notified <[link removed]> Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey in 2019 about how the state routinely violates the constitutional rights of incarcerated people by failing to protect them from violence and sexual abuse.
Yet, again and again, the Alabama Department of Corrections has shown it is either incapable of or unwilling to ensure the safety of people in its custody – people without the liberty to fight back against an abusive system. People who are taunted, beaten with batons, kicked and assaulted with chemical spray by correctional staff. People who are injured, sometimes killed, by employees of the state of Alabama.
Read more here. <[link removed]>
Senior Supervising Attorney, Criminal Justice Reform
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