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Justice Department: Alabama prisons may violate 8th Amendment

By
Clyde Hughes
The Justice Department said in a report Wednesday that Alabama state prisons may violate the Eighth Amendment because of numerous violations. Photo by EPA
The Justice Department said in a report Wednesday that Alabama state prisons may violate the Eighth Amendment because of numerous violations. Photo by EPA

April 3 (UPI) -- The Justice Department's civil rights division announced Wednesday that there is reasonable cause to believe that conditions in Alabama state prisons violate the Constitution's Eighth Amendment.

The department said in a statement that the state's men prisons have failed to protect prisoners against inmate-on-inmate violence and sexual abuse, and failed to create safe conditions for those prisoners. The Constitution's Eight Amendment prevents inmates from enduring cruel and unusual punishment.

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"The Constitution guarantees all prisoners the right to be housed in safe conditions and not be subjected to violence and sexual abuse," said assistant attorney general Eric Dreiband for the Justice Department's civil rights division.

"Our investigation found reasonable cause to believe that Alabama fails to provide constitutionally adequate conditions and that prisoners experience serious harm, including deadly harm, as a result. The Justice Department hopes to work with Alabama to resolve the Department's concerns," Dreiband added.

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The report said that violations in Alabama prisons were "severe, systemic, and exacerbated by serious deficiencies in staffing and supervision; overcrowding; ineffective housing and classification protocols; inadequate incident reporting; inability to control the flow of contraband into and within the prisons."

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The report said that illegal drugs and weapons could not be stamped out in the prisons and that the facilities suffered from ineffective management and training along with insufficient maintenance and cleaning. It added that high level of violence in the prisons was "too common, cruel, of an unusual nature, and pervasive."

Republican Alabama State Sen. Cam Ward, told AL.com that he anticipates the state legislature's prison oversight committee to meet early as next week to discuss the Justice Department report. He said the report should add urgency to improvements that need to be made in the state's prisons.

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"The governor, the attorney general, the leadership in the House and the Senate, we were all in one room when we're presented with this," Ward told AL.com. "So, we're all on the same page in trying to get it fixed."

U.S. Attorney Richard Moore, who lives in Alabama, said the report is a black eye for the state, but added the government needs to use more resources to correct the problems the report highlights.

"The failure to respect the rule of law by providing humane treatment for inmates in Alabama prisons is a poor reflection on those of us who live and work in Alabama," Moore said in a statement. "The task is daunting, but one we must embrace now without reservation."

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