Alabama prison conditions have been widely criticized by inmates, their loved ones, legislators, and advocacy groups. Now these groups have joined together to file a federal lawsuit against the Alabama prison system, alleging that the state has failed to meet its responsibilities of providing basic medical and mental health care to inmates. The deplorable conditions are an affront to basic human rights and have led attorneys to take action for Constitutional violations. According to an attorney from the Southern Poverty Law Center, inmates are suffering, many of them losing lives because their needs are not being met.
Whether you are being arrested for a crime, being transported by an officer, getting booked for a crime, or behind bars, you do have rights. Our Birmingham criminal defense attorneys are experienced with helping Alabama defendants protect those rights through the criminal justice process. Law enforcement officers, state agencies, including prisons and prosecutors, have been known to violate the rights of criminal defendants. An experienced defense attorney can help you position yourself in the criminal justice system, identify violations, and take legal action to reduce your charges and penalties. In addition to providing strategic advocacy to our clients, our firm is also abreast of legal developments that impact Alabama defendants and inmates.
The lawsuit was filed by the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Center and the SPLC on behalf of 40 inmates throughout Alabama. According to the complaint, serious medical and mental health issues have gone untreated resulting in catastrophe for patients. In one case an inmate was forced to have his foot amputated because the jail did not treat his gangrene. Another died from untreated prostate cancer despite tests that indicated he had cancer markers in his system. The Alabama Corrections Commissioner has denied allegations of constitutional violations. In another case, a defendant was stabbed 15 times and was never given medical attention. A bipolar defendant cut his wrists multiple times without mental health intervention.
Under the Constitution, law enforcement officials and the prison system are responsible for the health, safety and well-being of prisoners. Courts have held that once the state takes a defendant into custody, it must also provide care to ensure that basic human rights are being met. In these cases, denying needed medical and mental health care could amount to a constitutional violation. Sadly, many of these patients are non-violent offenders who have been locked up for extended or lifetime sentences. Without proper medical or mental health assistance, they could lose their lives.
This isn’t the first lawsuit that the Alabama prison system has faced a lawsuit for prison conditions. The state was placed under a federal receivership in the 70s for crowding and lack of medical care. Advocacy groups and legislators have urged an overhaul of the prison system to prevent the federal intervention of a receivership. The Alabama prison system has double the number of inmates that it was designed to hold. Since the lawsuit, the governor has initiated a study, with partial funding from the Department of Justice to generate new ideas for a prison overhaul by 2015. It is unsurprising that inadequate medical treatment, care and denied mental health interventions are also related to overcrowding and a lack of funding.