“We’re at a fork in the road,” Alabama state Senator Cam Ward, chairman of the Prison Reform Task Force, said in June 2014. “We have two paths to choose from and neither one is easy. Those of us on the task force can solve, it or federal courts can do it for us. It’s our choice.”
With the state’s prison system at around 192% of capacity, lawsuits pending over inadequate medical care and high levels of violence, and federal oversight due to pervasive staff-on-prisoner sexual abuse, Alabama has one of the nation’s most troubled Departments of Corrections. The state’s creation of the Task Force in early 2014 was a measure taken in an effort to avoid a federal court-appointed receiver or monitor over its prison system, as occurred in California.
PLN has been reporting for over two decades on deteriorating and abysmal conditions in Alabama’s correctional facilities. While prison systems in Southern states are typically at the forefront with respect to regressive policies and practices, the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) has been an outlier with its message of “incarceration means harsh and degrading punishment” – which may as well be its official motto.