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Alabama AG Moves to Dissolve 17 Consent Decrees

Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor and state Prison Commissioner Joe Hopper went into federal courts across the state July 2, 1997, moving (under provisions of the PLRA) to dissolve consent decrees governing conditions at three state prisons and 14 county jails. This action was accompanied by an orchestrated campaign of press releases, press conferences and television appearances wherein the two cited "outrageous" provisions of the decrees including: mandatory movies on weekends at the Tutwiler women's' prison, a separate law library for death row prisoners at the Holman prison, exercise equipment and TVs at the Tallapoosa county jail, etc.

Pryor said state and county officials agreed to consent decree provisions in the 1970's and '80s because the climate in federal courts and in congress was different then. Passage of the PLRA and several supreme court rulings in recent years have altered that "climate" significantly. Pryor said he had not consulted with county officials in all of the counties before including them in the legal action, but the PLRA gave him authority to proceed on their behalf.

Rhonda Brownstein, Senior Staff Attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, represents Holman prisoners. She informed PLN that a preliminary ruling by the federal court has terminated the Holman prison consent decree. Ms. Brownstein told PLN that she would consult with attorneys from the ACLU National Prison Project before deciding if or how to challenge that ruling.

Corrections Digest, AL A.G. Press Release, Southern Poverty Law Center

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