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Alabama prisons chief orders review of Tutwiler

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MONTGOMERY, Alabama – Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas told lawmakers today he is requesting a review of operations in response to a complaint alleging sexual abuse of inmates at Tutwiler Prison for Women.

“Of the nearly 4,000 correctional employees, overall a small number have violated their oath of office and the public. It is my pledge and goal to weed out all the bad apples,” Thomas told lawmakers.

Thomas spoke to a meeting of the Legislature’s Joint Prison Oversight Committee in which lawmakers discussed reports of increased violence in Alabama prisons and allegations of sexual abuse of female inmates at Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka.

“The hard-working dedicated employees are angered by the acts of a few bad apples who take it upon themselves to abuse their power in the worst kind of way. Likewise, most employees, including myself, are frustrated at being portrayed as brutal, careless prison guards,” Thomas said.

The commissioner said the department takes complaints seriously and is “not ashamed of past responses to substantiated claims of sexual misconduct.”

But Thomas said out of an abundance of caution, he has requested technical assistance from the National Institute of Corrections to audit operations and make recommendations of any additional steps that can be taken to reduce inappropriate staff conduct with female inmates.

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Thomas said he is also doing his own evaluation of how abuse complaints by inmates are handled.

“The Department of Corrections is committed to consistently providing appropriate security for inmates and staff, not only for inmates at Tutwiler,  but any facility where an inmate is housed,” Thomas said.

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