The New York Times covered the release this month of a 56-page report on the Alabama prison system by the U.S. Department of Justice. Alabama has one of the highest incarceration rates in the United States, and the report found that Alabama’s prisons also have the highest rates of murder and suicide in the country. Among the many other issues faced in the prisons are severe understaffing and overcrowding, widespread contraband, unsanitary living conditions and excessive physical and sexual violence.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in her State of the State speech last month that a federal intervention is forthcoming. The statement regarding Alabama’s reforms was challenged by Maria Morris, the lead lawyer for Southern Poverty Law Center’s civil rights lawsuit regarding the prisons.
“They’re not fixing them,” Ms. Morris said. “They’re giving a lot of lip service to the need to fix them, but the lip service always comes back to we just need a billion dollars to build new prisons and, as the Department of Justice found, that’s not going to solve the problem.”
The Justice Department has an ongoing investigation, not included in its 56-page report, of excessive force and sexual abuse by Alabama’s prison staff members, which could lead to criminal indictments.