Alabama Needs to Address Serious Problems Within Its Prison System

The State of Alabama incarcerates nearly 26,000 inmates in a system designed to hold 13,000. The system is staffed at a 60.4% level.[1] This combination is a recipe for disaster and will ulitmately have an adverse affect on the community at large in more ways than one. The stated Department of Corrections goal of “rehabilitation” has become a cruel joke at the expense of us all. Meanwhile, our legislature passes more and more laws requiring incarceration and takes discretion away from judges.

I am not alone in my belief that Alabama’s prison system falls below the standard set by the United States Constitution prohibiting “Cruel and Unusual” punishment. In Alabama’s prisons, violence is the rule rather than the exception, and prison staff are either helpless to stop the violence; look the other way; or incite the violence themselves.

The Alabama prison system is a powder keg that will end up either creating a strain of “super-criminals” who only know the violence necessary to survive in the system, or the system will implode and regress into chaos (a process that has already begun with the recent riots at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore.)

Just because someone commits a criminal offense that calls for incarceration does not mean that he or she ceases to be a human being and is not entitled to be treated with dignity. Remember, the vast majority of prisoners will some day become part of the general population once again. How do we want these individuals to behave upon their release? How we treat them while imprisoned will have a large effect on that behavior.

[1] Source: Alabama Department of Corrections December 2015 Monthly Report.


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