The Alabama “Corrections” System: An American Horror Story

Inmates sit in a treatment dorm at Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore, Ala., Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. The Department of Justice has threatened to sue Alabama over excessive violence and other problems in state prisons for male inmates. (AP Photo/Kim Chandler)

The Montgomery Advertiser interviewed more than two dozen men in the Alabama correction system, all of whom report extreme routine violence and “unhinged” drug-induced behavior among those incarcerated — often against elderly and vulnerable members of the prison population. As Melissa Brown reports, rehabilitation is impossible with little access to programs, while guards remain indifferent at best, refusing to enforce prison rules, or at worst, helping to perpetrate heinous acts.

The consistency of experiences — from prison to prison, from lifers to the newly incarcerated, from young and old, from black and white — paint a chilling portrait of corruption, violence and the disintegration of state institutions purported to correct and rehabilitate.

Alabama prison administrators openly flout the department’s stated rules and regulations in an attempt to exert control and discipline prisoners, the Montgomery Advertiser has found after months of reporting and interviews with dozens of men incarcerated across the state.

In the seven months since the Department of Justice released a scathing report on the Alabama Department of Corrections, prison officials have withheld food from men, micromanaging minor disciplinary infractions while violence and unexpected deaths continue unabated, including nine which occurred during the reporting of this story in September and October.

Ma’am, I’ve seen old, elderly people in wheelchairs get jumped on and robbed and get beat real bad. There’s nothing you can do about it. Officers don’t do nothing. I’ve seen a man get beat so bad in here, and the officers dragged him back in and put him in the same dorm.

This place is like a killing ground. It’s like a killing field, and nobody is doing anything about it. When people do get murdered, they say ‘died from natural causes.’

[There’s an older man who] is homeless in prison. He has no mattress, no clothes. He sleeps on the floor. Every time he gets something, they take it from him.

I’ve watched the very ones who are trusted to keep us in custody, safe and prepared for returning home beat, extort and even rape. My experience is one I’d never wish upon my worst enemy.

The humanity of us in here is stripped.

One asks why should the average citizen care about the living conditions in prison? It’s imperative to answer that question in the simplest way. First the taxpayer (average citizen) is the investor of prison life. Next, the investor now becomes a party in the creation of what exits these walls. My question has always been and remains, “What kind of individual would you want me to be once I’m released? A man or a monster? Rehabilitated or an animal?” If one was to really think about the creation of what I am to become along the same lines as the investment of their own personal safety, wouldn’t you want the best assurance money could buy?

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