By Steve Flowers, Guest Columnist
Folks, taking care of prisoners is not a popular political issue. However, every so often Alabama politicians pragmatically have to acquiesce to the mandates of federal judges and grant our transgressing citizens their rights as determined by the courts.
Federal Courts have determined that our felons deserve the rights to adequate imprisonment. You just cannot log them in, lock them up, and give them a basic bunk and rations three times a day. Courts want them to have sufficient space and access to mental health care.
Some state prison systems have come under a Federal Court order and have been given instructions on how to run their prisons and how to treat prisoners without regard to how much it costs. We in Alabama know that all too well. We went down that road a few years ago with Judge Frank Johnson.
We are headed in the same direction again. Alabama, like many states, has prison overcrowding and violence problems. Just as the Legislature began preparing their budgets for the coming year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) in conjunction with all our U.S. Attorneys in concurrence, has sent Alabama a clear message that the state’s overcrowded and understaffed correctional system is in incredibly poor physical shape.
In a precise outline the Justice Department clearly defines the remedies that the state must take to avoid federal intervention. This detailed report focuses on the most acute problems, which are sexual abuse, drug trade and extortion and the lack of adequate mental health for prisoners which is causing a high suicide rate. The federal investigators clearly said that the prisons are so dangerous that there is reasonable cause to believe that the state is in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Their outline clarified to the state that the overcrowding problem will and should be addressed by additional prisons. However, the report further said that new facilities will not resolve the contributing factors to the overall unconstitutional conditions.
See complete story in the Pickens County Herald.