(WIAT) — The Justice Department announced on Thursday that a statewide investigation into the condition of Alabama’s prisons for men has been opened. It is reported that the investigation will focus on whether prisoners are sufficiently protected from physical harm and sexual abuse at the hands of other prisoners. The investigation will also focus on how appropriately protected prisoners are from excessive force and staff sexual abuse by correctional officers, as well as whether the prisons provide sanitary, secure and safe living conditions.
“The Constitution requires that prisons provide humane conditions of confinement,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We hope to work cooperatively with the state of Alabama in conducting our inquiry and ensuring that the state’s facilities keep prisoners safe from harm.”
“Our obligation is to protect the civil rights of all citizens, including those who are incarcerated,” said U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance of the Northern District of Alabama. “This investigation provides us with an opportunity to work collaboratively with the state of Alabama to assess current conditions and ensure constitutionally sufficient conditions exist for all prisoners.”
“The vulnerability of a prisoner makes it even more important that basic hygiene and safe accommodations are afforded the inmates,” said U.S. Attorney George L. Beck Jr. of the Middle District of Alabama.
“I am very pleased to have my office join the Northern and Middle Districts of Alabama as well as the Civil Rights Division in opening an investigation into the Alabama prison system,” said U.S. Attorney Kenyen R. Brown of the Southern District of Alabama. “All citizens, even those who are incarcerated, should expect sanitary conditions of habitation that are free of physical harm and sexual abuse.”
The department says that they have not reached any conclusions pertaining to the allegations in this matter. It is reported that the investigation will be conducted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). Under CRIPA, the department is given the authority to investigate violations of prisoners’ constitutional rights that are a result of a “pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such rights.”
The Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern, Middle and Southern Districts of Alabama are conducting this investigation. Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the department via phone at (205) 244-2001 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.