BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Alabama legislators have put a temporary hold on a $10 million contract between the state Department of Corrections and a company that could analyze prison needs and design new facilities.
Al.com reports the Legislature’s contract committee paused the plan Thursday amid questions about its reliability, considering construction plans for new prisons failed in 2016 and 2017. Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn says planning for new prisons is a better use of tax dollars than putting more money into older prisons that need to be replaced.
He says it would cost about $1 billion to build three new regional prisons, including one that can accommodate inmates with high-need mental health issues.
One committee member said the Legislature is unlikely to pass a $1 billion prison plan.
article published 10/20/2017 & originally posted here
The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) must conduct a meaningful analysis of the staffing it needs to address an unconstitutionally inadequate level of care for prisoners who have mental illnesses, according to a brief filed in federal court yesterday by the SPLC.
ADOC will likely need more than double its current level of correctional staffing and nearly triple its mental health staffing, according to the brief. Additionally, the court should appoint security and mental health monitors to ensure that ADOC is carrying out the court-approved remedies, the brief states.
The filing is in response to a plan that ADOC proposed to the federal court last week, claiming that it would increase spending for mental health care workers – and would double staffing in those positions – but only if the state legislature provides enough funding next year.
“Compliance with the U.S. Constitution is not optional, and the state can delay no longer. Mental health staffing is woefully inadequate in ADOC prisons, and the flagrant constitutional violations that result must be addressed immediately in order to protect prisoners with mental illnesses from an ongoing risk of serious harm,” said Maria Morris, senior supervising attorney with the SPLC. “ADOC’s plan to remedy these glaring staffing deficiencies is vague, unsubstantiated and incomplete. It must address these issues now.”
The filing is the latest development in the SPLC’s ongoing litigation against ADOC for failing to provide adequate medical and mental health care for people in its custody. U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson issued a sweeping, 302-page ruling in June declaring the mental health care system in Alabama prisons “horrendously inadequate.”
The court specifically found that “persistent and severe shortages of mental-health staff and correctional staff” are among the overarching issues that contribute to the inadequacy of mental health care in ADOC prisons.
The court also found that ADOC’s mental health caseload is substantially lower than the national average, and that this failure to identify prisoners with mental health needs is the result of a number of factors, including “insufficient mental-health staffing.”
Recruiting and retaining adequate staff will take time and funding, but ADOC already has the authority and funding to hire some correctional staff right now. For example, ADOC does not need legislative approval to fill its existing, authorized staffing levels.
“Throughout this case, the court has repeatedly made it clear that lack of funds is not an excuse for ADOC’s failure to provide constitutionally mandated care to prisoners with mental illnesses,” Morris said. “ADOC officials have known for years that they need more staff, but they have delayed addressing the problem. Now, they want to delay even further, leading to more pain, suffering and possibly even death.”
Morris said: “The state has an immediate duty to hire enough qualified staff to address the crisis in care for the mentally ill. Over the long term, however, the only solution to this and other problems in the Alabama prison system is to decrease the prison population by getting people the help they need to stay out of prison in the first place. The state should ensure that people with mental illness get treatment, instead of just locking them up and throwing away the key.”
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s plan to improve correctional and mental health staffing in state prisons is vague and inadequate, attorneys for inmates told a federal judge last week.
The attorneys for inmates criticized the state’s proposal submitted to U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson.
“Commissioner Jefferson Dunn and Associate Commissioner Ruth Naglich appear not to recognize that they have been found to be running a correctional system that provides horrendously inadequate mental health care,” wrote Maria Morris, an attorney representing the inmates.
Thompson ordered Alabama to overhaul conditions in June after finding that psychiatric care of state inmates is so “horrendously inadequate” that it violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. One of the inmates committed suicide days after testifying in federal court about his treatment in prison.
Thompson ordered the state to submit a plan to address shortages of correctional and mental health staff.
The Department of Corrections told the judge in a filing this month that it was increasing staff and conducting a comprehensive analysis to determine security staffing needs, and had begun some of those steps before Thompson’s ruling.
Inmates’ attorneys argued the state should have deadlines for increasing staff and benchmarks for caseloads or the plan “will remain nothing more than words.”
Thompson scheduled an Oct. 30 hearing on plaintiffs’ request for additional information about the state’s plan.
Not one of Alabama’s 15 state prisons has a functional fire alarm system, according to Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn, who spoke to lawmakers earlier this week about overcrowding inside state correctional facilities.
“It’s pervasive in our system … that we have deficiencies in our fire alarm systems,” said Dunn. “So what we do, we have corrections officers posted throughout and if there’s an issue, we do it through a verbal system. Obviously, we have procedures if we have a fire to evacuate either portions or all of the facility but the aural fire alarms, we have deficiencies around the state.”
The revelation comes during a trying time for the state’s prisons. The system is at approximately 180 percent of capacity while the number of correctional officers required is dangerously low, according to previous AL.com reporting.
In 2016, Governor Robert Bentley put forth what’s known as the Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative (APTI), a plan to build four mega prisons at a cost of $800 million. While the initiative passed through both the House and the Senate, it did not gain final approval. In the coming session this year it’s expected that Bentley will raise the issue again with some amendments to help it pass.
Dunn conceded that other problems did exist in terms of infrastructure and health and safety. “I think the salient point is that (failing fire alarms are) just one of a dozen things that we face,” Dunn said. “While I don’t disagree about the fire system, you’ve got problems with electrical, you’ve got problems with plumbing, you’ve got problems all over that need to be addressed.”
Several complaints have been made since raw sewage started backing up and flooding the bathroom floors in as many months. The Officers make the women contain the flow of effluent by placing blankets and towels under the doors. They are then made to fish out any large foreign objects like sanitary towels, from the toilet bowel by hand.
It is often days before an external contractor is called to attend and remedy the problem. Apart from the obvious health risks associated with raw sewage, flies plague the bathroom whilst the women are trying to wash and brush their teeth, having flies landing on their person and their belongings.
This is clearly a severe health risk and wrong on so many levels. If your loved one reports to you that the sewage is over flowing again, and the Officers response is indifference, please contact the Alabama Department of Public Health via this form immediately. Also, you may want you can contact Carla Ward on 205.244.2001 email USAALN.CivilRights@usdoj.gov she is a member the Department of Justice team that is investigating the appalling conditions in Alabama prisons.
Alabama Department of Corrections likes to put out numbers concerning the amount they spend on inmates healthcare, but they are lies. We have to fill out a sick call for each thing that is wrong with us, and pay $4.00 each time. Any over the counter medicine given to us costs $4.00 for each medicine.
For example, if we sign up for a cold, we are charged $4.00 for the visit, $4.00 for the Ibuprofen, $4.00 for the Sinus pills, and $4.00 for the decongestant. They rarely give out antibiotics. We have to sign up at least 3x before we can see the nurse practitioner or Doctor. When we have an accessed tooth, they put us on the Dental waiting list, sometimes it takes 2 months before you see the Dentist, and then you have to be given antibiotics to get rid of the infection, before the tooth can be pulled.
We’ve had girls with their cheeks swollen 3x the normal size because of an accessed tooth and yet health care will not let them see the Doctor to get started on an antibiotic, whilst waiting to see the Dentist.
Those on chronic care for high blood pressure, have to pay $4.00 if we feel that our blood pressure is up and ask to have our blood pressure checked. If you complain about the healthcare at Montgomery Women’s Facility too much, they will send you back to Tutwiler, where no one wants to go. Its their way of punishing us for speaking out against their mistreatment. We call healthcare, deathcare and most of us try to avoid their type of care.
Correctional Medical Services, which later became Corizon, held the contract from 2007 to 2012. ADOC awarded Corizon the healthcare contract in 2012, through to Sept. 30, 2017, under extension, it was the only company to submit a bid. The $181 million extension will bring the total cost of the contract to $405 million. State funds pay 100 percent of the cost. So why the hell are inmates forced to pay for each appointment despite having to wait in some cases months to see a healthcare professional and then pay extortionate prices for over the counter medicine which cost pennies in the free world and where the hell are they supposed to get the money from in the first place?
The Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program have sued Alabama Department of Corrections, over the failure to provide adequate medical care, mental health care and accommodations for the disabled violates the constitution and federal law. Despite ADOC claiming their “healthcare” is adequate, it has agreed to improve conditions for inmates with disabilities, the lawsuit is ongoing and in fact, The SPLC, the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program and the law firm of Baker Donelson have asked a federal judge to certify its lawsuit against the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) as a class action, which would allow rulings in the case over the inadequate medical and mental health care of 43 prisoners named in the lawsuit to apply to the 25,000 people held in a prison system that has had one of the highest mortality rates in the country.
Alabama Department of Corrections started a grievance against Officers program. We inmates can file grievances against Officers who abuse us and/or abuse their positions. Lt. Bendford is our grievance Officer and she rules on all complaints. She’s been working with the same Officers and supervisors for years.
She even goes out to lunch with some of them. She has committed some of the same offences that grievances state, another has done. How can she be objective and unbiased? She can’t.
Every grievance filed against her co-workers are “unfounded”. We are discouraged and pray that the Feds will take over. Every person who works here needs to be removed.
We pray a Fed takeover because that’s our only hope at justice.
Transcribed from a letter by an inmate, identity withheld in fear of retaliation
Article Originally published here on January 09, 2017 at 3:35 PM, updated January 09, 2017 at 3:39 PM
By Dr. Larry F. Wood, retired clinical and correctional psychologist
I spoke out on the prison reform issue two years ago after working in Tutwiler women’s prison as a prison psychologist. Even after 25 years of professional experience in prisons, I was unprepared for the immensity of the problems. In particular, mental health and medical care were severely inadequate. The administration of the prison was unprofessional and abusive. Two years ago, I described the prison environment as a culture of abuse.
In the past two years, a federal investigation has continued and a trial is under way. The State of Alabama continues to deny that the conditions are unconstitutional. No substantial improvements or program changes have been announced. Governor Bentley has focused on borrowing money to build more prisons.
I have been disappointed that little seems to have happened over the past two years. State Senator Cam Ward has spoken eloquently on the subject, but there seems to be no political will to address the problem directly.
One core of the problem is the simple overuse of imprisonment to deal with social problems other than aggressive criminality. The most extreme example is mental illness. State hospitals were closed because of abusive conditions and now, most of the seriously mentally ill in our state are in prisons. Many other inmates are intellectually inadequate, socially unskilled, or drug addicted. Many were traumatized by a lifetime of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.
Prisons were initially used to control and punish the overtly dangerous. Their role has been expanded over many years to include the chronically disruptive in society. Such people are arrested numerous times and are backed up in county jails, waiting for beds to house them in prison. Prison, as a punisher, is not appropriate or effective for many such inmates.
Simply stated, Alabama’s prisons are overcrowded because too many people are being held in expensive, high security lockups. If our prisons were reduced to recommended population levels, they could be operated safely and professionally. Minimum security facilities with focused treatment and programs would be far less expensive than prisons for most inmates.
Out of approximately 300 women that are held in Montgomery Women’s Facility, its estimated that 80% are active drug users. This includes smokers of Marijuana and Spice, alcohol can be obtained and even intravenous drugs are acquired and consumed.
How is this right? How is this allowed or even possible you may well justifiably enquire? The answer is insidiously simple. The officers know who the troublemakers are and they tend to let them get away with illicit activities to keep the peace among the inmate population. Inmates who maintain model conduct in order to have an impeccable institutional record are unable to distinguish themselves in any significant way because the correctional officers pays them no mind. Simply put, It doesn’t pay to be good.
Good behavior often goes overlooked in prison. Let me re-state that again, Good behavior often goes overlooked in prison.
Women bond in groups, some women adopt a “state child”, often younger inmates they show the ropes to, someone that they can share their experiences with and they help to steer them out of troubles way, they show them how to adapt and to maintain some semblance of a normal life during their incarceration, they get called mom, it builds that family unit so often craved, caused by the want and desire of being a parent, but being absent from their own biological offspring. Some officers have “state children”too, that they use to do their bidding.
Some women become “gay for the stay” entering into relationships, not always sexual, but a relationship none the less, often fulfilling the role desperately sought outside of prison walls, some women revel in the limelight, being wanted, desired, cared for, provided for…some will engage in sexual activities, some will have sex with officers, after all, they know the best times and the best places in order to make it happen, in some cases its exciting, for some its done for extra privileges or extra canteen purchases, for most, they are a pawn in a game of abusive power. Knowing which groups to socialise with and those which should be avoided at all costs soon becomes apparent and before long you will probably find yourself having to choose, before the decision is made for you.
Montgomery Women’s Facility is considered a work camp although it does hold women up to the medium custody level. That means that it used to be considered a privilege to serve your time there. Approximately 10-15% of the women there go to work everyday in regular jobs. They work in fast food restaurants, hotels and the like. Alabama Department Of Corrections (ADOC) charges each inmate that works, $5 per day for the ride to work in one the several vans. The van can hold approximately 13 inmates, thats a lot per day just in van rides. Then ADOC takes 40% of the net pay inmates salary, in order to recuperate court costs, fines and restitution.