DOJ orders reforms at Alabama prison

Jan. 20, 2014 at 3:51 PM
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WETUMPKA, Ala., Jan. 20 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department says Alabama officials must take immediate steps to stop sexual abuse and harassment at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.

"We conclude that the State of Alabama violates the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution by failing to protect women prisoners at Tutwiler from harm due to sexual abuse and harassment from correctional staff," the Justice Department said Friday in a letter sent to Gov. Robert Bentley.

Investigators said more than half of the prison's 99 employees have been involved in some form of sexual misconduct and male guards regularly have sexual interaction with inmates. Some force women to perform sex acts in exchange for basic needs such as new uniforms or access to hygiene products. Other guards have allegedly leered at inmates in the shower, exchanged sexual letters with inmates and in at least one case, fathered a child with an inmate.

The report called Tutwiler a "toxic, sexualized environment."

"Eighteen years since notifying [the Alabama Department of Corrections] and Tutwiler officials of inappropriate sexual activity between staff and prisoners, problems in the area of sexual abuse and harassment have only worsened," the report said.

The Justice Department called on the state to take an active role in overhauling prison protocol and staff disciplinary actions.

"It is no longer enough to delegate the changes to the Tutwiler officials without expansive oversight," the report said.

The facility in Wetumpka, Ala., houses about 1,000 inmates and is home to Alabama's female death row, said.

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