Finally, Justice is investigating

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, January 22, 2014


In May of 2012 a non-profit justice system watchdog group reported inmates at Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women had been victims of widespread sexual abuse and sexual harassment by male guards.

The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), says that it had “uncovered evidence of frequent and severe officer-on-inmate sexual violence,” and the group asked the U.S. Department of Justice to look into the Alabama Department of Corrections’ “failure to adequately protect prisoners.” Tutwiler, located just north of Montgomery has an inmate capacity of 1,000.

The report alleged that between 2004 and 2011, the Corrections Department has received “dozens of complaints of sexual misconduct” between male staff and female inmates and reports of women becoming pregnant after being raped by guards. Between 2006 and 2011, according to the report, several women inmates were sexually assaulted or coerced into sexual favors in exchange for contraband goods such as food and toiletries.

“This troubling cycle of abuse and lack of accountability has established a widespread pattern and practice of custodial sexual misconduct,” said Bryan Stevenson of Montgomery, the Equal Justice Initiative’s executive director. This initial work by Stevenson’s organization has now borne fruit.

Just a few days ago, the U. S. Department of Justice informed Gov. Bentley that the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has launched an investigation at the prison into allegations of sexual abuse and harassment. The letter states that “inmates almost universally fear for their safety, live in a sexualized environment with repeated and open sexual behavior, including strip shows sponsored by the prison staff; and deliberate cross-gender viewing of inmates in the showers and bathrooms.

Saying that the investigation is not over, DOJ stated: “We conclude the State of Alabama has violated the Eighth Amendment of our Constitution by failing to protect women prisoners from harm due to sexual abuse and harassment from corrections staff.”

State prisons say the findings are “off the mark.” Stevenson said he hopes the findings will trigger more meaningful reforms by thy state. When conditions reach the point of violating the constitution there has to be a remedy.” My question is how much is this lack of supervision going to cost the taxpayers?


How do we secure our water resources?

Margo Rebar, chair of the Alabama Sierra Club wants to know what planning is going on in Alabama to secure our water resources from the threat of neighboring states and competing uses.

“Water in Alabama,” she writes “is something of a political football. When it comes to how much water Alabama should get from its neighbors, the courts have turned the ball back over to the federal Army of Corps of Engineers, and then Florida took the ball and threw it to the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, she opines, “the state of Alabama sits on the sidelines with no real play to make, even with two-thirds of our state’s valuable water resources at stake, from the Georgia line to Mobile Bay.

Rebar says it has been more than a month since the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group submitted their much anticipated report to Gov. Bentley. The group was charged by the governor in 2012 with recommending “a statewide water management action plan and timeline that takes into account and equitably manages the various demands on the State’s water.”


Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. Email him at: