Justice Department Sues Alabama Over Prison Conditions

The US Justice Department filed a lawsuit against the state of Alabama over the unsafe and unsanitary conditions of its men’s prisons. 

The suit, filed Wednesday (December 9), says the prison systems in Alabama violated the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act by failing to provide incarcerated people safety from violence, sexual abuse, and excessive force from prison staff members. 

“The State of Alabama is deliberately indifferent to the serious and systemic constitutional problems present in Alabama’s prisons for men.” 

The 13 main state correctional facilities have earned an infamous reputation for their conditions, which have been documented over the years, according to a report by NPR

The Department of Justice first launched its investigation in 2016, and claims the prisons are now more crowded than when the investigation started, which is creating tension and exacerbating violence. 

The lawsuit claims that prisoner homicides have increased since then, too. The lawsuit says overcrowding leads to broken toilets and showers, fueling tension and exacerbating violence between those incarcerated at the prisons. 

Alabama’s Governor Kay Ivey issued a statement on AL.com in which she called the lawsuit “disappointing.” 

“The state has actively been negotiating in good faith with the Department of Justice following the release of its findings letters,” Ivey stated. “Out of respect for the legal process, we unfortunately cannot provide additional comments at this time.” 

Since the spring of 2019, negotiations between US attorneys and state officials have been fruitless in getting changes implemented at the prisons.   

“The United States has determined that constitutional compliance cannot be secured by voluntary means,” the lawsuit says. 

The suit comes as advocates bring awareness to the dangerous situation prisons create for incarcerated people, prison staff, and neighboring communities during the pandemic. 

Photos: Getty Images

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