Feds expand Tutwiler prison investigation - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Feds expand Tutwiler prison investigation

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MONTGOMERY - AL -

The investigation into sexual abuse at an Alabama women's prison is expanding. The U.S. Department of Justice is now also looking into possible excessive use of force, inadequate medical care, and discrimination.

The federal agency claims women at Tutwiler in Wetumpka continue to live in fear for their safety and problems with sexual violence and threats of it still exist. The letter to Governor Robert Bentley lists Tutwiler as the U.S. prison with the highest number of sexual assaults.  It says the state has been told to address the problems for nearly two decades, but there's still abuse, no grievance procedure, poor staffing, a floor plan that doesn't allow privacy for showering and using the bathroom, inadequate investigations into complaints if any, and no proper discipline for officers who abuse inmates.

The report estimates 39 percent of the officers have abused the women and 36 percent of them still work in the prison. All of this amounts to a violation of the eighth amendment according to the U.S. Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels who authored the letter.

The investigation is now expanding into use of excessive force, inadequate medical care, and discrimination based on nationality and sexual orientation.

"Officials have been on notice for over eighteen years of the risks to women prisoners, and for over eighteen years, have chosen to ignore them," wrote Samuels.

Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas issued a statement saying, "we have been proactive from the beginning. We have never down played the significant and serious nature of these allegations.  I do not, however, agree that Tutwiler is operating in a deliberately indifferent or unconstitutional manner." 

The report tells the state to once again correct the issues. The findings came from hundreds of letters from the inmates, polygraph tests, paternity tests, state records and an April visit.

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