Prison violence a growing concern


Experts and lawmakers are concerned about conditions inside the state's prison system after two inmate on inmate homicides in the past two weeks.

An inmate from Houston County was stabbed by another inmate over the weekend at the Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent. And another fatal stabbing at the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Jefferson County happened just last week.

"This is an issue that's going to have to be addressed as a priority for the state," said Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. "We can't just assume that just because it's behind prison walls, it doesn't touch us, because it does."

Stevenson says the EJI has received a number of complaints about violence at Bibb and Donaldson.

"It's disheartening and sad but not completely shocking the institutions that have created these most recent incidents of violence."

Stevenson said state leaders need to invest more money into programming at prisons and try to address the culture of violence inside the walls.

The budget for next fiscal year increases funding for the prison system from $372.8 million this year to $389.5 million next year. Commissioner Kim Thomas said the funding should help provide money to hire more correctional officers and provide security upgrades.

But more some lawmakers say more needs to be done to address overcrowding in the state's prison system or problems inside and outside of the prison walls will get worse.

"If we don't deal with it, what we're going to end up stuck with is a system where the federal court is going to come in and take it over," said Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, and Chairman of the Joint Legislative Prison Committee. "And the average citizen is either going to pay more or end up with an increased crime rate as a result of it, and none of us want that."

Thomas was not available to comment for this story, but we did receive a statement from Governor Robert Bentley's office.

"The Governor is concerned about the conditions inside Alabama prisons," said Jennifer Ardis, Press Secretary for the Governor. "Unfortunately, we cannot eliminate all violence in the prison system no matter how much we do, but the Governor is confident that Commissioner Thomas is addressing the difficult conditions inside Alabama prisons to ensure safety for inmates, officers, and the community to the maximum extent possible."


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