The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

January 26, 2013

Fed study criticizes Alabama women's prison

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A Justice Department report released Friday criticizes how inmates are treated at Alabama's lone state prison for women, where advocates last year alleged rampant sexual misconduct by workers.

Released by the Alabama Department of Corrections months after it was received, the study by the National Institute of Corrections said prisoners have reported sexual abuse and officials haven't always treated those complaints in the proper manner.

The study said rape complaints are not always investigated in the same manner and the process is often kept secret.

However, the report did not directly address whether correctional officers routinely committed sexual offenses against prisoners, as advocates claim.

"Staff and inmates are much more likely to cooperate with a process if they understand how it works," the report said.

"It appears there is a culture of certain captains, sergeants and officers who have their own set of rules as it relates to managing the inmate population, while there is another group of the same level staff who try and manage with a more humane approach," the report said.

The report said the prison, built is 1943, is dirty and overcrowded, and staffers aren't trained well enough. It also said there are too many men and not enough officers.

The review found that inmates don't trust the prison's complaint system, and it cited claims that prisoners are disciplined for bringing up problems at Tutwiler, located in Wetumpka about 20 miles north of Montgomery.

Prisons Commissioner Kim Thomas said officials had stopped the practice of putting prisoners who file a complaint against an officer in solitary confinement. They also have been given more storage space, which was another complaint, he said.

The report found it was difficult for the female inmates to get privacy when changing clothes or for other activities.

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