Alabama’s prisons are a shameful blot

All Alabamians should be embarrassed by the U.S. Department of Justice report released Wednesday about the deplorable and even inhumane conditions of our state prisons. The feds say our men’s prison system treats inmates unconstitutionally and is threatening a lawsuit within 49 days if the state doesn’t show tangible efforts to change the system. Alabama […]

All Alabamians should be embarrassed by the U.S. Department of Justice report released Wednesday about the deplorable and even inhumane conditions of our state prisons.

The feds say our men’s prison system treats inmates unconstitutionally and is threatening a lawsuit within 49 days if the state doesn’t show tangible efforts to change the system.

Alabama remains a deeply conservative law-and-order state and many will say those behind bars forfeited any right to decent treatment when the cell door closed behind them.

Most of those serving time deserve to serve time but they don’t deserve rampant rapes, stabbings, beatings, extortion and unsanitary conditions. Those reports should concern us all and it certainly reflects on us as a state.

Think for a moment if you had a friend or relative in a state prison. Would you want them stabbed to death while screaming for help that came too late and while other inmates stood watch to make sure the few guards on duty didn’t see anything? Would you want them beaten by socks filled with metal locks? Or having their bed set on fire while asleep? Or living with raw sewage? Eating food from a kitchen with rats and maggots?

Prisons are for punishment and should also be a path to rehabilitation and restoring as much dignity as possible. But turning inmates into productive, law-abiding citizens won’t occur in Alabama prisons unless there are some huge changes.

Gov. Kay Ivey has proposed such changes, including building three new prisons and hiring 500 more correctional officers. We hope the legislature provides the resources and we agree with U.S. Attorney Richard Moore’s conclusion.

“The United States Constitution bans ‘cruel and unusual punishments’ but the conditions found in our investigation of Alabama prisons provide reasonable cause to believe there is a flagrant disregard of that injunction,” Moore said. “We are better than this. We do not need to tarry very long assessing blame but rather commit to righting this wrong and spare our state further embarrassment.”