Dothan Eagle on new penitentiaries, but same old hellholes

Two years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report alleging constitutional violations in the Alabama prison system. The DOJ cited overcrowding in the state’s 13 prisons for men, understaffing of corrections personnel, and high risk of violence, death, and sexual abuse, along with excessive force and unsafe physical plant conditions.

It should’ve been a wake-up call for Alabama officials. The situation in the Department of Corrections didn’t materialize overnight. Prison officials watched as the inmate rosters grew, and kept tabs on the inmate-corrections officer ratios, and passed the information up the pipeline. The buck stops with elected officials who hold the purse strings and set the agenda.

And year after year, the growing problem was ignored. In 2019, the DOJ put the state on notice. Last December, it filed suit against the state.

State officials began discussion about spending a billion dollars on new prisons, and after a false start, the Legislature approved a $1.3 billion construction plan earlier this year.

Now the DOJ has issued a new report saying conditions have not improved since its first complaint in April 2019. Alabama prisons hold more than 14,000 inmates in facilities meant to house 9,462. There are only half as many corrections officers as needed. Since 2015, 58 inmates have died at the hands of other prisoners in Alabama penitentiaries; seven were killed in 2021.

DOJ’s new complaint doesn’t address the new prison plan, but has asserted that new buildings won’t solve the ills of Alabama prisons.

Lawyers for the state are challenging the DOJ complaint in court, but it seems futile to argue facts such as 150% occupancy rate, 50% deficit in corrections officers and seven violent inmate deaths in less than 11 months.

Lawmakers must show a good faith effort to address the myriad challenges within the walls of the state’s prisons, or we’ll simply have the same hellholes in billion-dollar Big Houses.

Crossville (Tennessee) Chronicle on sharing blessings this holiday season

The world is abuzz with the Christmas spirit, and one of the best ways we can make sure it lasts all year long is to share our blessings.

So many in our community can benefit from what we have to share, even if our bank accounts might be a little on the light side.

We offer only a few ways you can help, and it won’t cost a dime.

Handy with a hammer? Help Habitat for Humanity build affordable homes.

Want to help children? CASA offers avenues to advocate for and mentor the youth.

Have a reliable vehicle? Offer someone without transportation a lift.

Got blood? Blood clinics are always in need of blood donations, so give the gift of life.

You don’t have to crack open your checkbook — but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t.

We urge you to give what you can, whether it’s time or money. The blessing you give might just be surpassed by the blessing you’ll get.

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