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“Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women” (Justice Department reports Climate of “fear”)

Representative Allen Farley

In 2012 the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice alleging evidence of frequent and severe officer-on-inmate sexual violence at Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.  Following this complaint, Alabama Prison Commissioner Kim Thomas requested the U.S. Department of Justice “National Institute of Corrections” conduct a review of facility operations at the Tutwiler Prison for Women and make recommendations to the administration on additional steps that can be taken to reduce inappropriate staff conduct with female offenders and create a safer, healthier environment.

First, let me reaffirm what most of you already know. I am an outspoken Christian who is pro Law Enforcement. My faith assures me that our debts must be paid. And, I believe with all my heart that we truly are “One Nation under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All”. That includes justice for those we have incarcerated for violating our laws. That’s part of what sets us apart from the rest of the world. And we must keep it that way!

I know you’ve heard the old saying “But for the grace of God go I”.  Well?  Think about it. Our prisons are occupied by all types of offenders. Some are truly evil people, some are addicts, some are suffering from a mental disease, some committed crimes out of desperation, and some are simply good people who made a mistake. I know, it’s scary to think about. 

When I read the NIC consultant’s 28 page report I was in disbelief. I read the report for a second time and became enraged. It was like reading about a prison in Russia or China. 

Let me try to give you a visual of life at Julia Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka, Alabama.  The facility was built and designed for women offenders in 1942.  It was built to house 400. Its current inmate population is approximately 700. Staffing is somewhere around 60% and a large percentage of the prison staff at Tutwiler are male. Except for inside the Mental Health unit, there are no operational cameras at this facility.

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Do you have a visual image? That’s the best part. Now let me give you some direct quotes from the Justice Department report dated November 1, 2012:

Page 5: “Prior to this assessment it does not appear that Central office has fully embraced or understands the significance of gender issues.”

Page 6: “It appears there is a culture of certain Captains, Sergeants and Officers who have their own set of rules as it relates to managing the inmate population.”

Page 10: “It appears the standard environment is one of disarray and acceptance of unclean space and therefore does not reinforce physical and/or personal safety of inmates or staff.”

Page 15: “Consultants found a significant presence of staff reluctance to report on the inappropriate actions of fellow employees.”

Page 15: “The ADOC is allowed to polygraph inmates who make allocations, but there are prohibitions in the law, which prevents them from administering polygraph testing to employees. If the inmate is determined to be truthful in their response to the polygraph test, but the employee denies wrongdoing, there is deemed to be not sufficient evidence to bring a finding of guilty.”

Page 15: “Consultants attempted to use the hotline from telephones within the facility. On one occasion the hotline connection failed to work. While on site it was disclosed that there were several other telephones that were out of order.”

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Page 18: “As noted, the facility is so short staffed that, more often than not; male staff from other facilities are able to work overtime at Tutwiler. When speaking with them they did not know what the Prison Rape Elimination Act was and report they had never heard of it.”

Note: The Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003 (PREA) is the first United States federal law passed dealing with sexual assault of prisoners. The bill was signed into law on September 4, 2003.

Page 20: “Some of the inmates and support staff indicated they do not feel physically or sexually safe in this facility. Women are forced to shower shoulder to shoulder in full view of an elevated officer’s station, with no privacy dividers. Inmates reported that when women are showering, male staff sits in the elevated officer’s station observing them.”

Page 20: “The women and staff report that Tutwiler is a repressive and intimidating environment. Inmates reported being in fear of retaliation from staff if they reject staff’s sexual advances.”

Page 22: “There were multiple reports from staff and inmates that offenders were placed in segregation without due process simply because they annoyed or irritated someone in the administration.”

Page 26: “The Administration states that often inmates are transferred to the facility from other facilities for medical treatment, but their medical files are not transferred with them.”

Page 26: “Neither medical nor mental health staff truly understands PREA. They expressed that it was over reported because it is many times consensual. They have accepted that they must report it and that is ALL they have to do. They expressed no concern of the actions taken or actions not taken.”

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Page 27: “When asked about programs or groups to address sexual victimization the mental health staff reported”, “No there weren’t any because the inmates are manipulative.”

Page 27: “Staff reports the prison is a place of exploitation because the management wants to keep the facility “closed” and contain the “secrets” within the walls.”

My Opinion: Overcrowding, understaffing, and state employee salaries did not cause the evil that has obviously been allowed to manifest itself within the walls of Alabama’s Julia Tutwiler Prison. The absence of character and integrity by the staff and management has provided evil a dark place to dwell.  

Psalms 35:6 Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them!

God Bless America!!!

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