Alabama has a prison problem. Not a crime problem, but the problems that come from warehousing too many inmates in too few prisons without adequate personnel, health care, access to social programs and other necessities.
In 2019, the United States Department of Justice issued a report that detailed horrific conditions inside Alabama’s prisons, where inmate-on-inmate violence was the norm, not the exception. Stabbings, sexual assaults and suicides have been on the climb for the last decade.
And that’s not the only problem facing Alabama prisons. Correctional officers — the very people designated to keep the order inside the state’s prison population — often directly or indirectly added to the violent conditions. Far too many inmates have suffered violent beatings and medical neglect from correctional officers, while other officers took money from inmates in exchange for a steady supply of weapons, drugs and other contraband.
Harsh criminal sentences, especially for nonviolent drug offenders, have escalated the problems with overcrowding inside the prisons. Years of voluntary agreements with the government to do better have done nothing to improve the situation, and calls for more federal oversight have gone unheeded. Governor Kay Ivey is now looking to a panel recommendation to guide reform motions in the 2020 legislative session. Several of those reforms, including one that would help provide more oversight, have already been proposed.
Just the same, drug abuse and addiction continue to be a major problem inside the state’s prisons — and there’s no clear plan from the government to fix the issue. Inmates report that they can pretty much get whatever drugs they want, saying, “You might as well be on the street.”
If your loved one’s addiction led to a drug crime, it’s important to get legal assistance early. Sending someone to prison to “dry out” is not really an option — and it’s counterproductive to imprison someone who has a treatable illness.