The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) Commissioner is responding to a scathing report on conditions in Alabama's jails.
The investigation was conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). In a 24-page report, the SPLC visited 15 prisons, interviewed more than 100 prisoners and reviewed thousands of pages of medical records.
Their overall assessment is that the state's corrections department is indifferent to prisoners' mental and physical medical needs. The report outlines alleged abuse from guards, a lack of medical supplies and discrimination against those with mental and physical illnesses. They also say the prisons violate the U.S.'s ban on cruel and unusual punishments.
The report outlines several alleged shortcomings in the system:
- There are more than $25,000 inmates in the system but only 15 doctors and 12 dentists to serve them.
- The SPLC claims ADOC allowed a prison guard with tuberculosis to continue working.
- A blind prisoner allegedly signed his own "do not resuscitate" order thinking it was related to his transfer.
Wednesday afternoon, ADOC Commissioner Kim Thomas released a statement responding to the report. In it, he says that ADOC is "...proud of the health care we provide to inmates, health care which costs Alabamians millions of dollars each year and is better than health care given to most uninsured Americans."
Thomas goes on to say that ADOC was made aware of the SPLC's findings and asked for clarification and more information. He says those requests were emphatically denied.
Below is the full statement from Thomas:
"The Alabama Department of Corrections is proud of the health care we provide to inmates, health care which costs Alabamians millions of dollars each year and is better than health care given to most uninsured Alabamians. We have allowed the Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program to come into our institutions, and permitted access to our facilities, records and offender interviews for more than two years in an effort to work with them on a variety of concerns related to the prison system. We met with the SPLC and ADAP recently regarding their concerns after receiving a letter containing much of the same information included in their report. With an interest in working to resolve their concerns, we asked for clarification and additional information so we could fully understand their concerns and investigate the information they claimed to have received. Our requests for clarification and more information were, however, emphatically denied.
We are disappointed that we were not allowed more information so we could look into certain allegations raised in the report. We are still reviewing the report and have passed the information on to Corizon and MHM. MHM and Corizon have informed me that many of the allegations in the report are grossly inaccurate and appear to be based on incomplete information.
As Governor Bentley stated yesterday, my door is open to the SPLC and ADAP if they wish to cooperate with our department in resolving the concerns raised in their report. Regardless of how they proceed, this department will remain committed to ensuring that every individual incarcerated in our system is confined in an environment that complies with the United States Constitution."
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