by Kevin W. Bliss
A U.S. District Court has ordered the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) to come up with an acceptable solution to address deplorable living conditions in the state’s prison system before the federal government steps in and does it for them. Alabama prisons have long been plagued with violence and overcrowding. [See: PLN, Aug. 2018, p.30; June 2017, p.51; Dec. 2015, p.42].
In June 2014, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP) filed a class-action suit against the ADOC, claiming the poor level of mental health care provided to prisoners violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
The lack of treatment and resulting violence was due in large part to systemic overcrowding and understaffing. The Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women alone went from 60 percent of open staff positions filled to 35 percent over a six-year period. A report prepared by the ADOC showed a correlation between the decrease of prison staff and increase in prisoner violence.
Under a March 2016 partial settlement in the lawsuit, the ADOC said it would ensure that prisoners with disabilities received services and programs required under the Americans with ...