[Pnews] Department of Justice finds conditions at Julia Tutwiler Women's Prison to be unconstitutional

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 17 22:11:47 EST 2014

  Department of Justice finds conditions at Julia Tutwiler Prison to be

January 17, 2014 at 7:16 PM*


MONTGOMERY, Alabama --- The U.S. Department of Justice said today that 
conditions at Julia Tutwiler Prison violate the Constitution, citing 
what it called "a history of unabated staff-on-prisoner sexual abuses 
and harassment."

DOJ sent investigators to Tutwiler last April 
issued their findings in a 36-page report today.

"The women at Tutwiler universally fear for their safety," the report 

"They live in a sexualized environment with repeated and open sexual 
behavior, including: abusive sexual contact between staff and prisoners; 
sexualized activity, including a strip show condoned by staff; profane 
and unprofessional sexualized language and harassment; and deliberate 
cross-gender viewing of prisoners showering, urinating and defecating," 
the report stated.

DOJ said the conditions violate the Eighth Amendment right to be 
protected from harm. It said problems go back almost two decades.

The DOJ also said it will expand its investigation to look into medical 
and mental health care for inmates and other issues.

Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas said today he 
did not think conditions at the prison were unconstitutional and said 
efforts have been under way for months to address problems first 
reported by the Equal Justice Initiative in 2012. 

Thomas declined to respond to specific allegations in the DOJ report, 
which he said he received this morning.

"I think they are off-base in their findings, but I don't want to 
respond to any one part of the findings," Thomas said.

He said inmates and Tutwiler are safe and free to report abusive 
behavior by staff.

"We will look very carefully at the contents of this report and look 
forward to working with the Department of Justice to understand the 
valid complaints that they raise and hopefully finding resolution 
without the necessity of imposing some court action," Thomas said.

Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the EJI, said findings in the 
report were troubling and a cause for quick action by the state.

"I think it's a serious indictment of the conditions of confinement that 
exist at the Tutwiler Prison for Women and it calls into serious 
question whether there's a need for fundamental reform within the 
Department of Corrections specifically related to sexual abuse and 
misconduct at Tutwiler," Stevenson said.

"I think it's a very thorough and troubling set of findings that ought 
to warrant a very significant response from the governor and the 
department to immediately remediate these very serious problems at 

Read the DOJ report on EJI's website. 

EJI asked DOJ to investigate when it reported its findings in 2012.

Today's report follows one issued in 2012 by the National Institute of 
of the DOJ, which also sent a team to Tutwiler and found abuses of 
inmates by staff and problems with the way inmate complaints were handled.

Thomas had asked for the review by NIC  following the complaints by EJI. 
He announced a list of more than 50 changes to address the problems they 

"I don't think they give us enough credit for everything we've started 
and are trying to keep moving," Thomas said of today's DOJ report.

He also said: "It's a little bit surprising to me that they give so much 
weight to unverified allegations."

The DOJ report says investigators did an on-site inspection at Tutwiler 
for four days in April 2013 and interviewed staff and dozens of 
prisoners. They analyzed incident reports, investigative reports, 
disciplinary reports and other documents and received 233 letters from 
current Tutwiler prisoners detailing a variety of concerns.

In a summary of findings, DOJ says it has made a number of factual 
determinations, including:

-- For nearly two decades, Tutwiler staff has sexually abused and 
sexually harassed inmates with impunity.

-- Staff has raped, sodomized, fondled prisoners and coerced prisoners 
to engage in oral sex.

-- Prison officials discourage prisoner reporting of sexual abuse by, 
for example, placing women in segregation after they make a complaint. 
(Thomas said that practice has been stopped.)

-- Tutwiler fails to adequately investigate allegations of sexual abuse 
and harassment.

The report says individual prisoner allegations were corroborated by 
paternity tests, polygraph examinations, staff admissions, ADOC 
investigations and corroboration by other prisoners with no chance to 
coordinate stories.

The DOJ report includes a set of minimum remedial measures for Tutwiler.

Those include complying with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, a federal 
law, and making sure that prisoner complaints of sexual abuse and 
misconduct are handled and investigated appropriately. They say DOC 
should develop a plan to recruit more female officers to work at Tutwiler.

DOC spokesman Brian Corbett said the remedial measures overlap with many 
of the reforms Thomas announced last year. For example, DOC has stepped 
up efforts to recruit female officers and provides a 5 percent pay 
differential for officers who work at Tutwiler.

Thomas said the agency has worked hard to address the issues since the 
EJI report in 2012. He said that includes working with NIC to train 
prison staff in proper management of female inmates. DOC is scheduled to 
install security cameras in the prison before the end of the year.

"We have been very proactive in addressing these issues form the very 
beginning," Thomas said. "We've never downplayed the importance of these 

"I'm going to do everything within my power, with the resources that are 
allocated to us ... to make sure that we afford the best living 
conditions and the best environment for our female offenders," Thomas said.

/This story was updated at 7:03 p.m. to add the last six paragraphs/
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
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