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Department of Corrections taps former federal prison official as new deputy commissioner

Chip Brownlee | The Trace

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The Alabama Department of Corrections has chosen a new deputy commissioner.

The department on Monday announced the appointment of a longtime federal prisons official, Charles Daniels, as the new deputy commissioner of operations.

Daniels arrives at the Alabama Department of Corrections at a time of difficulty, as the department has been struggling with aging and overcrowded prisons and legal challenges in federal courts to conditions in those prisons. A 28-year career official with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Daniels will oversee the daily operations of ADOC’s 23 male correctional facilities.

The prisons have a population of about 18,600 and employ more than 1,700 security staff.

“Deputy Commissioner Daniels brings to the Alabama Department of Corrections a wealth of knowledge and leadership experience that will prove invaluable to the department’s operations, its mission, and will build upon our progress to strengthen a prison system that is in need of major reform,” said Commissioner Jeff Dunn.

Daniels’ appointment was effective Monday.

Daniels began his career in 1988 as a correctional officer in the Bureau of Prisons, and he later rose through the ranks to serve as a warden of major correctional facilities around the country.

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Daniels most recently served as senior deputy commissioner of correction for the New York City Department of Correction. Before that, he served as the warden of federal prisons in Colorado, Texas and Indiana.

In 2008, Daniels became the senior deputy assistant to the director for the BOP’s Industries, Education and Vocational Training Division. In 2009, he became warden of the U.S. Penitentiary in Florence, Colorado. He was promoted in 2013 to warden at the federal prison in Beaumont, Texas, and in 2015, he became the warden of the federal complex in Terre Haute, Indiana, until his retirement in 2016, when he moved to the New York City Department of Correction.

Daniels’ appointment comes at a time when the Department of Corrections is attempting to comply with a federal court ruling that found mental health care conditions in Alabama’s prisons to be “horrendously” and constitutionally inadequate.

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The Department of Corrections is also struggling to deal with aging and dilapidated prison facilities. The department and allies in the Legislature have tried in vain to convince lawmakers to build new prisons.

Daniels will assume the responsibilities of former Associate Commissioner Grantt Culliver, who also oversaw daily operations at ADOC’s men’s facilities. Culliver, who came under severe scrutiny after two complaints were filed accusing him of using his office to pressure women for sex, resigned in December after being suspended over the misconduct allegations.

Sexual misconduct allegations at Department of Corrections kept from public by bureaucracy

At the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Daniels held senior positions including team leader, regional trainer of the hostage negotiation time, member of the joint terrorism task force and counselor for the equal employment opportunity program.

According to the Department of Corrections, Daniels is credited with developing a curriculum used by the Bureau of Prisons for the professional development and internal training of federal prison officials, and he developed a five-step emergency response continuum designed to respond to and resolve emergent situations within a correctional environment.

Daniels is a graduate of the Aspen Institute Justice and Society Program, Center for Creative Leadership, and holds a degree in criminal justice. He is a military veteran with service in the U.S. Air Force from 1984 to 1988.

 

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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Birmingham City Council approves 2021 budget

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The Birmingham City Council late Tuesday night approved Mayor Randall Woodfin’s budget for the city, hard-hit by COVID-19. 

Woodfin’s $412 million budget is almost 9 percent lower than the previous budget, and includes numerous cuts to staffing, including a hiring freeze, suspension of nine paid holidays, furloughs and salary cuts of between 3 percent and 10 percent for some workers. The city projects a $63 million shortfall due to the pandemic, which has already resulted in a loss of $17 million caused by reductions in sales tax, use tax, occupational tax, lodging tax and business licenses, according to a press release from the city Wednesday morning. 

“This has been a budget of difficult choices. None of our decisions were taken lightly,” Woodfin said in a statement. “I want to thank the council for working with me to maintain critical, essential services for our residents with the revenue available to the city. The economic impact of COVID-19 has put every city in a similar position. Together, we will work through this crisis to revitalize our neighborhoods.”

Among city workers furloughed are 61 full-time and 23 part-time workers from culture and recreation facilities, and 91 full-time and 67 part-time library employees. Those library workers were furloughed Friday, and the move prompted protests from some of those library workers and their supporters outside City Hall before the Council meeting on Sept. 22. 

Woodfin’s budget maintains the city’s FY2020 level of funding for street resurfacing, demolition, weed abatement and continues prioritizing increases to the city’s pension fund, according to the release. 

In an effort to balance out losses due to the pandemic the city has also eliminated 444 vacant positions, suspended merit raises, cost of living adjustments and longevity pay. Woodfin himself also took a voluntary 10 percent pay cut. 

Both the city’s capital and operating budgets can be reviewed here.

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Shelby meets with Barrett, is “confident” she is the right choice to serve on Supreme Court

Brandon Moseley

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Sen. Richard Shelby, right, meets with Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett, left.

Wednesday, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) met with Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Following the meeting, Shelby stated his strong support of Judge Barrett’s nomination. Shelby said that Barrett “Will be an excellent addition to the Supreme Court.”

“After speaking with Judge Barrett, I am confident that she is the right choice to serve on the Supreme Court,” said Senator Shelby. “Judge Barrett is exceptionally qualified for this role and maintains strong conservative values and a deep commitment to our Constitution. I have no doubt that Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be an excellent addition to the Supreme Court.”

Shelby expressed his strong support for President Donald J. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

“I look forward to supporting Judge Barrett’s nomination to serve on our nation’s highest court, and I urge my colleagues to do the same,” Shelby continued.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has announced that Barrett will get a vote on the Senate floor.

Senate Democrats have objected to the nomination being confirmed before the November 3 general election.

Pres. Trump defended his decision to nominate Judge Barrett to the Supreme Court during Tuesday’s presidential debate with Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.

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“Elections have consequences, we have the Senate and we have the White House,” Trump said. “She is outstanding.”…..“We won the election and we have the right to do it.”

Since her nomination by President Trump, Judge Amy Coney Barrett has been making routine visits to Capitol Hill to meet with Senators. Many Democratic Senators, following the lead of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), are refusing to meet with Judge Barrett.

Barrett fills the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

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Judge Amy Coney Barrett currently serves as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She clerked for legendary Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as well as Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Before and while serving on the federal bench, she was a professor of law at Notre Dame Law School. Barrett is a devout Catholic and mother of seven, including two adopted Haitian children.

Shelby said that Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s excellent academic achievements, legal expertise, and judicial record prove that she is eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court.

It is the constitutional responsibility of the U.S. Senate to provide “advice and consent” to the President on all executive nominations, including judges to federal courts, appeals courts, and the Supreme Court.

Richard Shelby has served in the United States Senate since 1987. All of the eight current Supreme Court Justices, even Ginsburg who just died, were appointed and confirmed during Shelby’s tenure.

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Governor issues apology to surviving victim of 1963 Birmingham church bombing

Eddie Burkhalter

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Sarah Collins Rudolph

Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday sent a written apology to the surviving victim of the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, and agreed to have the state’s attorneys meet with the survivor’s attorney to discuss their desire for compensation. 

The surviving victim, Sarah Collins Rudolph, and those who died, including Rudolph’s sister, Addie Mae, and Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Carole Denise McNair, suffered an egregious injustice that has yielded untold pain and suffering over the ensuing decades, Ivey wrote in her letter to Rudolph’s attorney, Ishan Bhaba. 

“For that, they most certainly deserve a sincere, heartfelt apology – an apology that I extend today without hesitation or reservation,” Ivey wrote.  

“It would seem to me that beginning these conversations — without prejudice for what any final outcome might produce but with a goal of finding mutual accord — would be a natural extension of my Administration’s ongoing efforts to foster fruitful conversations about the all-too-difficult — and sometimes painful — topic of race, a conversation occurring not only in Alabama but throughout America,” Ivey continued. 

The explosion set off by Klansman on Sunday, Sept. 15, 1963, that killed the four young Black girls left Rudolph blind in her right eye. Bhaba wrote to Ivey earlier this month and asked on behalf of Rudolph for an apology and compensation for her lifelong injury. Her injury ended her dream of becoming a nurse, and so she’s worked odd jobs throughout her life to survive, Rudolph has said in several news accounts. 

Ivey in her response Wednesday wrote that many would question whether the state was legally responsible for the bombing, but that “the racist, segregationist rhetoric used by some of our leaders during that time was wrong and would be utterly unacceptable in today’s Alabama.” 

The deaths of the young girls came at a time when Alabama politicians were fighting against desegregation of the state’s public schools. Then Alabama Gov. George Wallace in May, just more than a week before the bombings, told The New York Times that “what this country needs is a few first-class funerals.” 

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Twelve years after the bombing, one of the Klansmen responsible was convicted of killing one of the girls and sentenced to life in prison. 

Then-U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, 24 years later, secured convictions of two other Klansmen involved in the bombing. 

Jones, now a U.S. Senator for Alabama, met with Rudolph’s attorneys in December, according to The Montgomery Advertiser, which quoted Jones as saying in a statement at the time that he didn’t feel it was in his place to offer her legal advice. 

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“I did, however, confirm my belief based on my own research for the trials of two of the four Klansmen responsible for the bombing, that the State of Alabama, through George Wallace and others, and the city of Birmingham through Bull Connor and others, engaged in the kind of dog-whistle political rhetoric that promoted violence and led to the bombing,” Jones said in the statement, according to the newspaper.

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Alabama Republicans urge Jones to meet with Trump’s SCOTUS nominee

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump, left, and his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. (WHITE HOUSE PHOTO)

Wednesday, Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan and over 25 supporters held a news conference at ALGOP Headquarters in Hoover to demand that Senator Doug Jones not ignore the majority of Alabamians and consider Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court.

“Today is the day we are challenging Doug Jones to do something he rarely does – listen to the majority of Alabamians,” Lathan said. “He has ignored the majority over and over on major issues.”

Lathan said that Jones has ignored the wishes of the majority of Alabama: “On voting to remove the President…twice. When he voted no to seat now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. He still owes Justice Kavanaugh an apology for going along with the circus the Democrats orchestrated against a nominee that Alabamians supported. On voting to withhold funding from the southern border wall being built. On declaring he will vote to take away Alabama tax cuts courtesy of President Trump…in other words take away your money that you work for – he’s telling you, Alabama, it’s his to take and not yours to keep. He wants your family income back.

“And now he has said he will not vote to confirm a deeply qualified and highly respected judge, Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court,” Lathan continued. “He said it’s because it’s too close to an election. Well, there was an election held in 2016 and 2018 – Alabama said we highly support President Trump in the White House and America added 2 more Republican U.S. Senate seats. With the Republican Party now the majority in the Senate and in the White House, Senator Jones needs to do his job – meet with her, listen to her and then decide on Judge Barrett’s credentials.”

“If he can find time to have campaign drive-in events, he can find time to do one of the most important jobs a U.S. Senator is tasked to do – the seating of a Supreme Court Justice, authored by the Founding Fathers through the United States Constitution,” Lathan continued. “Look, we understand he’s in a jam – with over 80% of his funding from out of state, mostly New York and California, he has to cash out with them. He’d fit in nicely in those lands of radical liberalism especially since he only votes with President Trump 35% of the time while representing the highest approval rated state for Donald Trump in the nation.”

Lathan said that, “Tone deafness to the seating of Judge Barrett will not stand. There is no reason not to meet with this mother of 7 who drives a minivan, is highly regarded by her students, professors and those who have worked with her in the judicial system. Why is he afraid? He looks weak. Alabama does not like that look at all. Do your job, Senator Jones. Use your own words that you pride yourself on of being fair. Meet with Judge Barrett on behalf of Alabama.”

“Doug Jones was asked on CNN about voting against the will of the majority of Alabamians during the Kavanaugh hearing,” Lathan said. “His answer was smug, arrogant and a true snapshot of how out of step he is with our state – he replied, ‘That may be true but it’s not the be all to end all.’ That’s code for ‘I don’t care’. So again, we find Doug Jones being Doug Jones – thumbing his liberal left-wing nose at one of the most conservative states in the nation.”

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Friday, Jones announced that he will not support any Trump nominee for the Supreme Court for the vacancy created by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing. Jones stated, “I will not support the confirmation of any Supreme Court justice nominee before the election.”

“It is a poor reflection of the state of our national politics that, just hours after Justice Ginsburg’s passing, we were thrust into a divisive partisan fight over her successor, denying the nation the time to mourn this extraordinary American’s death,” Jones continued. “Just weeks from a national election, we are confronting a blatant power grab by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the President that will undermine the court and subvert the will of the American people.”

“Just four years ago, Leader McConnell held open a Supreme Court seat for ten months before a presidential election because he said time and again that, in an election year, we must let the American people decide,” Jones said. “If confirming a Supreme Court justice ten months prior to a presidential election would have denied the American people a voice, then isn’t he now denying the American people a voice by rushing to confirm a justice just weeks before a presidential election?”

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“Under these circumstances, I will not support the confirmation of any Supreme Court justice nominee before the election,” Jones explained. We should not force the country into a brutal and divisive partisan confirmation fight while Americans are already voting to choose the next President. If President Trump is re-elected, I will evaluate any pending or future nominee on their merits and vote for or against the nominee based solely on their qualifications.”

“OK – go ahead Senator Jones. You do you and we are going to do us,” Chairman Lathan said. “On November 3rd when Alabamians have all of the power, we will prove that your one hit wonder term was really a one hit blunder term. We will thumb our noses at you with the stoke of our pens. You will have no one to blame but yourself. In 34 days, your millions of dollars and appeasement of the left will not save you. Alabamians don’t take kindly to being ignored and on November 3rd they will not be ignored by you any longer.”

“In 34 days, Alabama will again add a new page in our history books when we will show Doug Jones that the voters are the be all to end all,” Lathan said. “We will end his placeholder status and elect Tommy Tuberville to replace Doug Jones. Coach Tuberville will support our president and, as important, not ignore the wishes of the people of sweet home Alabama.”

Lathan was joined at ALGOP headquarters by State Representative David Wheeler (R-Vestavia), State Senator Jabo Wagoner (R-Vestavia), Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman former State Rep. Paul DeMarco (R-Homewood), and Republican National Committeewoman Vickie Drummond.

“The world is watching Alabama. Will we keep the majority in the Senate,” Lathan said.

Lathan challenged Senator Doug jones “to at least meet with her that is the minimum that he can do.”

Lathan warned that “Complacency is the enemy of the Republican Party,” when discussing the GOP’s prospects in the 2020 election.

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