The Unconstitutional State of Alabama Prisons

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The Unconstitutional State of Alabama Prisons

Faith Ward, Writer

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On April 2, 2019, the United States Department of Justice released a document exposing the brutality and cruelty of Alabama prisons for men. The investigation began in 2016. The document revealed that the Alabama Department of Corrections denies prisoners their constitutional rights through the overpopulation of prisons, the understaffing of correctional officers, the normality of violence, and much more.

One of the most dangerous occurrences to continuously take place are stabbings. It is not uncommon for the prisoners to have makeshift knives. Shift commanders estimated that between 50-75% of prisoners are equipped with some type of weapon. Both prisoners and correctional officers were reported to be stabbed.

One of the most gruesome stories took place at St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville. An officer noticed a prisoner running in the hallway and stopped him. The prisoner turned and revealed that he had a knife nested in his head. The prisoner was transported to a hospital for the knife’s removal. It was an eight-inch makeshift knife.

Prisoners are also prone to have and sell drugs inside the prison.  Two shift commanders of death row and segregation at William C. Holman Correctional Facility predict that 50- 60% of prisoners abuse drugs. Though another officer that is head over the general population believes it is closer to 95%. Recently, two guards from two different Alabama prisons were charged with smuggling drugs into a prison.

Sexual assault takes place in Alabama prisons. All the correctional facilities were reported to have an unsettling amount of sexual abuse. The document says that most of it is not reported because the officers shame the men that do speak up and report it which discourages them to say something.

The problem ultimately lies with the understaffing the prisons and overpopulation of prisoners, which leads to much more crime happening. Alabama prisons have a population rate of 165% across all of their prisons and 182% in the thirteen major prisons.

This treatment of prisoners is beyond wrong. Though they are criminals and some have committed unspeakable crimes, they are human and have constitutional rights. They deserve to be treated with a certain level of respect because how else are they going to turn a new leaf.

The reason for having prisons is to rehabilitate criminals and help them move forward in life. Treating them as if they are not human is only going to force them further into a life of crime.

Governor Kay Ivey addressed this issue by saying that three new prisons replace the overpopulated facilities that are too expensive to repair. 

But this is not addressing the abuse that is taking place inside. 

So my question is, Alabama, why don’t we value all life?