Alabama has drawn national attention for its harsh sentences for non-violent criminal offenders. Now the state is drawing attention for prison abuses that have been investigated by the federal government. A recent report published by the Department of Justice, revealed that prisoners at a women’s detention center suffered repeated sexual, physical and psychological abuse. The abuse and harsh conditions at the hands of prison guards at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women remains under investigation.
The prison has been the center of an investigation after reports of abuse over the past 18 years. Since 2009, there have been at least 6 corrections officers who were convicted of sex crimes taking place within prison walls. The report indicates that the abuse is widespread and could involve up to 30% of the correctional officers working in the prison. OurBirmingham criminal defense lawyers are dedicated to protecting rights of criminal defendants in Alabama. We are also committed to raising awareness in criminal matters, including post-conviction issues and prison abuse.
The Justice Department highlights a range of psychological, physical and sexual abuses, ranging from prison guards watching women shower or use the bathroom to daily sexual harassment using profanities. Women in the prison were forced to exchange sexual favors for basic needs and suffered discrimination based on race and sexual orientation. The most severe cases have involved rape that produced at least one child. Female prisoners who did not comply with orders or who attempted to report misconduct have been punished with solitary confinement.
Tutwiler is the only women’s prison in the state and houses about 900 inmates, more than double its capacity. The conditions inside the prison are made worse by this overcrowding—there aren’t sufficient resources to provide adequate staffing and there are only 3 cameras in the entire prison. According to the report, the environment is ripe for abuse.
While such abuses are common in women’s correctional facilities nationwide, the conditions and rampant sexual and physical abuse cases at Tutwiler are an intensified version of these problems. The case may be giving rise to constitutional claims on behalf of the inmates. According to the Justice Department report, the conditions are so bad at the prison that it is likely the inmates have suffered constitutional violations.
Currently, Alabama is facing a federal intervention; however, the report could prompt an internal reform. One solution proposed by legislators is to build more prisons to reduce overcrowding. Others suggest a general overhaul of sentencing guidelines so that fewer non-violent offenders are sent to prison. According to reports, over half of the inmates at Tutwiler have been locked up for nonviolent offences including drugs and property crimes.
Alabama prisons are posing a serious risk to inmates and could be violating constitutional rights of inmates. If you or someone you love has been convicted of a crime, it is best to defend against a criminal sentence from the outset. An experienced attorney can protect your rights through investigation, trial, and in post-conviction matters.