No Warden, No Classification Officer and Now, No Canteen Lady

Montgomery Women’s Facility has been without a full time Warden since Mr Edward Ellington left to take over at Draper Correctional Facility in March 2016. Wardenship passed temporarily to Warden Terrance during which time conditions within the facility took a drastic turn for the worse, Ms Terrance left in August and the Captain has been acting as warden since.

Alabama Department of Corrections staffing woes and their impact, are still negatively felt throughout all aspects of ADOC, it has been reported that at other facilities, Correctional Officers have gone on strike citing the dangerous conditions that are festering as the upper echelons of Alabama Department of Corrections struggle to get a grip on a system that is failing from the top all the way down. Its not just an issue of safety and security, the absence of a classification officer as at Montgomery Women’s Facility increases stress, tension and creates an additional bottleneck in an already dangerously over crowded prison system, people that have served their sentences, especially those that are considered long-timers should be high on the list of priorities as they approach their parole and end of sentence dates.

Classification Officers are supposed to interview and assess amongst other things the custodial level biannually, effectively allowing those that have a low enough custody level, to be able to work and be in preparation for their release. Having no classification officer is a serious issue and it keeps women held on higher custodial levels than which they are entitled too, in an already over populated, neglectful and abusive prison system, common sense you would have thought, would be a priority, facilitating the lowering of custodial levels to those eligible, effectively freeing up bed space and hastening the transition back into society, not to mention raising moral, giving hope to those that have often served many years from dubious convictions.

Bear in mind too, that Alabama cases are difficult for many reasons, for example Post-conviction records are exceptionally hard to obtain in Alabama, and there is no specific post-conviction DNA testing statute except in capital cases. New evidence often must be brought before a court within six months of discovery, which can be extremely difficult and at times, impossible. controls public court records in Alabama and charges exorbitant access fees, making the records virtually inaccessible to those incarcerated or their families which are generally on low incomes, Alabama needs to rethink its policy on locking people up and throwing away the keys, giving fair hearings, trials and sentences would be a great start.

Alabama has some of the most violent, dangerous prisons in the country, inmates have been subject to neglect and abuse and forced to live in deplorable conditions as the recent investigation by the SPLC & ADA clearly showed, indeed the Department of Justice has now launched its own unprecedented statewide investigation on whether prisoners are protected from physical and sexual abuse by other prisoners and guards, and whether living conditions are sanitary and safe in general at men’s prisons, we believe this should be expanded to include the Women’s facilities too because ADOC has known about the sexual, physical and mental abuse at facilities such as Tutwiler Women’s prison, which was allowed to happen, unabated for decades.

Several weeks ago, the lady that ran the canteen, was escorted off site by Internal Affairs investigators, it should come as no surprise that her replacement has yet to be found. The canteen has become essential for inmates in order to subsidise the poor diet that is provided by ADOC and obviously inmates have limited options, they either eat what is served, which is mundane, flavourless and repetitious using foodstuffs bought at the lowest price and subsequent quality or they purchase overpriced items from the canteen or commissary which places an extra financial burden on the families of those incarcerated. Prisons and jails are responsible for providing sufficient, nutritious meals. Food is a basic necessity and failure to provide can lead to health problems and in some cases, violent outbursts by frustrated and hungry inmates.

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