The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

January 26, 2013

Fed study criticizes Alabama women's prison

(Continued)

The department studied the prison after a Montgomery-based group. Equal Justice Initiative, leveled complaints last year of rampant rape, harassment and sexual assault at Tutwiler. The executive director of EJI, Bryan Stevenson, could not immediately be reached for comment on the review.

Prison officials said they are changing policies to make improvements. Thomas was asked at a news conference why it took several months to release copies of the report. Thomas said he wanted to give his staff time to study it.

"We had some bad apples and we are working to weed them out," said Thomas. He did not elaborate.

The report found that inmates interviewed in focus groups in September did not believe prison management staff is accessible or approachable.

"Feedback from the various focus groups points to an attitude of 'bullying' on the part of leadership toward staff and inmates," the report said.

The report said inmates have little confidence in the grievance process.

Several members of the Legislature's prison oversight committee attended Friday's news conference and received copies of the report.

The committee's chairman, Republican Sen. Cam Ward of Alabaster, said if something is not done to resolve the problems identified at Tutwiler "it would lead to court challenges down the road."

He said many of the problems, like the age of the facilities and overcrowding, will take money, which legislators may be unwilling to spend on inmates.

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