The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

July 10, 2013

Report claims sexual abuse at three state prisons

(Continued)

The chairman of the legislative prison oversight committee, state Sen. Cam Ward, called the allegations "inexcusable."

"This is a black eye on our corrections system and on our state," said Ward, R-Alabaster.

Stevenson said the investigation started after his group received dozens of complaints in a short period of time from inmates at Elmore earlier this year. Staffers spent three months at the facility interviewing inmates and prison workers, he said.

In the past six months, there have been nearly a dozen reports of prisoners at Elmore having been handcuffed, stripped naked and then beaten by several guards. Some of the inmates have required hospitalization and suffered permanent injuries, according to the EJI report.

At Donaldson and Bibb, there have been reports of male correctional officers that forced young male inmates to perform sex acts, including oral sex, and then threatened to file disciplinary charges against them if they refused or reported the abuse, the report said.

An earlier report by the Equal Justice Initiative cited sexual abuse of female inmates by male guards at Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka. Thomas brought in the National Institute of Corrections, part of the Justice Department, to conduct a review at Tutwiler. Its report, released in January, cited the lack of security cameras monitoring major areas of the prison.

In response, Thomas got the Legislature to appropriate $3.5 million for security improvements at Tutwiler, including cameras to monitor conduct inside the walls.

Four former employees of Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton are scheduled for sentencing Sept. 23 on charges related to the beating death of inmate Rocrast Mack. The most serious of the four, former prison supervisor Michael Smith, faces up to life in prison for hitting and stomping Mack and then trying to cover up how he died.

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