The apocalypse scenario longed feared for the Alabama Department of Corrections may have arrived.
News out of Washington on Wednesday is the Department of Justice is considering suing our state prison system because of the recurring inmate violence and officials' inability -- or unwillingness -- to reduce it.
From The New York Times:
"The (DOJ) report focused on the failure to prevent prisoner-on-prisoner violence through inadequate training, failure to properly classify and supervise inmates, and failure to stem the flow of contraband including weapons and drugs. 'The violations are severe, systemic, and exacerbated by serious deficiencies in staffing and supervision,' the report said. It also cited 'the use of segregation and solitary confinement to both punish and protect victims of violence and/or sexual abuse; and a high level of violence that is too common, cruel, of an unusual nature, and pervasive.'"
Despite small and incremental improvements, overcrowding in Alabama prisons remains alarmingly high -- a problem exacerbated by the age and condition of the system's facilities. Under-staffed and overcrowded prisons, when mixed with weak leadership, is a recipe for federal takeover. Alabama certainly doesn't want that to happen, which is partly behind Gov. Kay Ivey's January request to the state Legislature for more funding for state prisons and February announcement to build three new facilities. We'll see what lawmakers do with the next fiscal year budgets.
More from The Times:
"The department said that it found that prisoners in the Alabama prison system endured some of the highest rates of homicide and rape in the country, and cited a 'flagrant disregard' for their constitutional right to be free from excessive and cruel punishment.
"The Alabama Department of Corrections is already the subject of federal civil rights lawsuits that say prisoners are not protected from violence and are not given proper medical and mental health care. The prisons are severely understaffed, and the department has requested $31 million to hire 500 more correctional officers and raise pay across the board."
-- Phillip Tutor