WETUMPKA, Ala. (WIAT) – CBS42 began looking into the claims of abuse by prison guards of female inmates at Tutwiler prison in May of 2012, with the “Behind the Bars” Special Report. It was about that time the US Department of Justice began to seriously probe conditions at the prison, and fully investigate claims by former inmates. Now a report, released by the Department of Justice vindicates the claims.
In a letter to Governor Robert Bentley, the report states there is, “a history of unabated staff-on-prisoner sexual abuse and harassment.” The report goes on to say, “Officials have been on notice for over eighteen years of the risks to women prisoners and, for over eighteen years, have chosen to ignore them.”
CBS42 reached out to the Alabama Department of Corrections for a response. They tell us work is already underway to remedy the situation. A plan of action was adopted at the beginning of the investigative process back in 2013. As for ignoring the complaints, Commissioner Kim Thomas says “we have never down played the significant and serious nature of these allegations. I do not, however, agree that Tutwiler is operating in a deliberately indifferent or unconstitutional manner.”
You can see the full statement released below:
On Monday, March 4, 2013, the Alabama Department of Corrections received written notification from the United States Department of Justice commencing an investigation into the conditions of confinement at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1977. The DOJ released findings of their investigation today, January 17, 2014.
In January, 2013, Department Commissioner Kim Thomas announced implementation of a formal Action Plan to improve operations at Tutwiler. The Action Plan is based on a Technical Assistance Report provided by the DOJ’s National Institute of Corrections. In June, 2012, Thomas invited the NIC to conduct an on-site assessment of facility operations at Tutwiler and to make recommendations to improve cross-gender supervision. Prior to receiving the NIC’s final Technical Assistance Report in November, the ADOC began universally addressing and implementing 58 specific opportunities as identified by the NIC. To date, 57 action items have been completed.
“We consider allegations of custodial sexual misconduct to be an unacceptable abuse of power,” Thomas said. “During the last year we have worked tirelessly to implement recommendations of the DOJ’s National Institute of Corrections, a review that I requested. Positive reforms have been put in place and those reforms will continue.”
“We have been proactive from the beginning,” Thomas added. “We have never down played the significant and serious nature of these allegations. I do not, however, agree that Tutwiler is operating in a deliberately indifferent or unconstitutional manner. We will cooperate with the Department of Justice and continue our efforts to implement changes and recommendations with the goal of improving prison conditions and avoiding potential contested litigation.”
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