HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - It’s a scathing report following a years-long investigation into the prisons in Alabama.
The Department of Justice concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the men’s prisons fail to protect prisoners from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse, and fail to provide prisoners with safe conditions.
So what's being done to address the issues?
The federal prosecutor leading the charge says there are ongoing efforts on several levels.
Jay Town, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, has been in Montgomery all week in high level meetings centered around the Alabama Department of Corrections.
A month ago, the DOJ gave Governor Kay Ivey their findings from a 2.5 year long investigation into the prison system.
As required by the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), the Department provided Alabama written notice of the supporting facts for the alleged conditions and the minimum remedial measures necessary to address them.
"That investigation revealed some troubling 8th amendment issues inside of our prisons here in the state of Alabama, our male prisons. What I've been doing since is engaging with the leadership in the state, with ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn, the Governor's Office and certainly with the legislature to come up with two tracks of solutions.
One is the policy side with improvements the DOJ is assisting ADOC with.
The other is a legislative side to discuss points to help ADOC alleviate the 8th amendment violations.
U.S. Attorney Town is the designated lead on the legislative side and says he's experienced a cooperative spirit in his meetings in Montgomery.
“Certainly the legislative piece is going to be up to the State of Alabama. It’s nothing the Department of Justice can coerce or even negotiate but I do think that if we do this wisely and cooperatively, I do think these two tracks together combine very nicely and compliment each other,” Town stated.
Sen. Bobby Singleton (D-AL 24th District) addressed the work that's happening, stating: "We are looking at in some subcommittees through the Prison Oversight Committee to look at some different sections based on what DOJ has asked us to do. We're trying to come up with a comprehensive plan that we can present to the legislature, some legislation we can pass to hopefully move the needle down the road to help solve the problems that DOJ has."
As for when we could start to see some of those bills start to roll out, lawmakers say it will probably be in the later part of this legislative session.
The Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney's Offices for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Alabama initiated the investigation in October 2016 under CRIPA, which authorizes the Department to take action when it has reasonable cause to believe there is a pattern or practice of deprivation of constitutional rights of individuals confined to state or local government-run correctional facilities.
The investigation was conducted by attorneys with the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Alabama.
“It’s my preference to never file any litigation here in the state of Alabama as it relates to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act,” Town stressed. “It’s very important to understand that it’s our preference at the Department of Justice to never have to file this litigation and allow Alabama to come up with an Alabama solution.”