AL.com and the Birmingham News recently published a year-end review of its coverage of Alabama prisons, summarizing the numerous calls for change dating back several years that were made by EJI, the Department of Justice, and others. The coverage documented staff abuse of inmates and criminal misconduct that has plagued Alabama facilities, as well as the demonstrated ineffectiveness of current leadership.
Reforms that the Department of Corrections must pursue in 2015 were identified: it must “fix the basics” such as violence, sexual abuse, criminal abuse of power, and inadequate health care. And to do this, leaders must be held accountable.
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore – “no liberal,” in his own words – has begun to find fault with Alabama prisons and the state’s criminal justice system, explaining, “I don’t see a lot of mercy in our justice system.” Chief Justice Moore expressed concern over the severity of sentences that are given to criminal defendants in Alabama and believes that the habitual offender law is “applied unfairly.”
EJI is hopeful that the increased media coverage of the Alabama prison crisis will help lead to serious and tangible reforms in 2015, including safer and more humane conditions for the state’s inmates and a change in leadership at the Department of Corrections.