Alabama elected officials address DOJ’s prison conditions lawsuit

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of Alabama, alleging the state’s men’s prisons’ unsanitary and unsafe conditions violate the Constitution.

This comes more than four years after the DOJ opened its investigation into the state prison system. The lawsuit only comes a little over one year after the DOJ’s initial report on the conditions within the Alabama Department of Corrections was published in April 2019.

In the lawsuit, the DOJ argues that because the state has not addressed any of the problems outlined in its report, some issues have gotten worse.

The filing alleges the number of prisoner-on-prisoner murders has increased, and overcrowding remains one of the standout problems.

In September Governor Kay Ivey announced plans to build 3 new mega prisons to offset that problem. She issued a statement after the lawsuit was filed Wednesday.

“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. 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.”  

Governor Kay Ivey

Alabama Senator Arthur Orr called the recent filing “unfortunate”

“It is unfortunate that the U.S. DOJ ran out of patience with alabama. Governor ivey has been moving along with prison construction plans—all of which have been publicly and widely reported. The legislature has increased the Alabama Dpartment of Corrections budget by tens of millions of dollars over the last few years to allow the hiring of additional correctional officers to address the violence in the correctional facilities. In sum, the state conceded the need for massive improvements and had committed significant resources to address U.S. DOJ concerns but apparently we failed to move our mountains quickly enough for the bureaucrats in Washington. “

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur

The DOJ put ADOC on notice in July. The recent filing explains this lawsuit was the federal government’s last resort

“The United States has determined that constitutional compliance cannot be secured by voluntary means,” according to the lawsuit.

The filing seeks relief for outlined unconstitutional conditions. It does not seek monetary damages.

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