Alabama Sued By Justice Department Over Prison Conditions

On Wednesday (December 10), the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Alabama over the condition in its prisons.

The DOJ claims the state is failing to protect male inmates from violence from other inmates and excessive force at the hands of prison staff. The suit also alleges that conditions in the Alabama prison system are horrendous and that it’s one of the most understaffed and violent in the country.

The lawsuit comes after the department released investigative reports twice in the last two years that allege Alabama is violating prisoner’s rights.

“The United States Constitution requires Alabama to make sure that its prisons are safe and humane,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

He continued: “The Department of Justice conducted a thorough investigation of Alabama’s prisons for men and determined that Alabama violated and is continuing to violate the Constitution because its prisons are riddled with prisoner-on-prisoner and guard-on-prisoner violence. The violations have led to homicides, rapes, and serious injuries. The Department of Justice looks forward to proving its case in an Alabama federal courtroom.”

Alabama was previously in negotiations with the Justice Department since the first report was issued in 2019 in hopes of preventing a lawsuit.

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“This is disappointing news, as the state has actively been negotiating in good faith with the Department of Justice following the release of its findings letters,” Governor Kay Ivey said in a statement.

She continued: “Out of respect for the legal process, we unfortunately cannot provide additional comment at this time. We will, however, push forward with our plan to reimagine and rebuild Alabama’s correctional system from the ground up through the construction of three new regional men’s prisons. The comprehensive efforts underway will go a long way in addressing the long-standing challenges faced by the Alabama Department of Corrections.”

According to a 2019 Justice Department report, a culture of violence permeated the state’s prisons for men and described frequent rapes, beatings and fatal stabbings among inmates. It also decried a management system that undercounted homicides and failed to protect prisoners after being warned. The July report on excessive force noted that at least two inmates died at the end of last year after use of force by officers.

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