Women’s Imprisonment in Alabama Awareness Week


***SAVE THE DATES***

Women’s Imprisonment in Alabama Awareness Week

January 11- 15th, 2010

The University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) Women’s Resource Center will be hosting a week-long series of events to raise awareness of women’s imprisonment in Alabama.  Below is the schedule of events.

Event Listing:

January 11th-15th: Letter Writing Campaign

January 11th-15th: Women’s Stories Campaign

January 12th: All Day- T-shirt campaign

January 12th from 10:00 am-2:00 pm: Tutwiller dorm demonstration on Quad

January 12th from 6:00 pm-8:00 pm: Panel Event (Location TBD)

January 13th at 12:30pm: Women in Prison Brown Bag (Manly Bldg, Room 308)

January 13th at 4:00pm: Film: Girl Trouble (Ferguson Theater)

January 15th at 1:00pm: *Pending* Tour of Tutwiler Prison (The tour is not open to the public, but arranged by the University of Alabama Women’s Resource Center for students, faculty, and other university community members)

OUR VIEW: A new report suggests several states are at least somewhat putting the brakes on the death penalty, but Alabama remains stuck in the fast lane


By Birmingham News editorial board

December 26, 2009, 5:31AM

The Death Penalty Information Center’s annual report last week offered encouragement to those who oppose capital punishment, at least in some parts of the country.

The center reports some of the bigger death penalty states seem to be slowing down a bit, sentencing fewer inmates to death and slowly shrinking their population of condemned inmates.

Sadly, Alabama is stuck in the fast lane.

According to the report, even Texas, which consistently is the nation’s leader in carrying out executions, has seen the size of its Death Row drop by more than 25 percent in the past 10 years, mainly because of fewer death sentences being imposed.

Alabama’s Death Row population has increased since 1999, and not because it has been slacking off in executions.

By the time the ball drops in Times Square on Dec. 31, the Heart of Dixie will have executed six inmates this year, the second-highest number of any state and more than 11 percent of all executions in the country. Our Death Row population, at 200, is the nation’s fifth biggest.

This is not something that should make us proud.

Although arguments can be made in support of the death penalty, they don’t override the compelling arguments that can be made against this irreversible punishment.

The Death Penalty Information Center, which comes down on the opposing side, said the reasons the death penalty is falling out of favor can be traced back to several factors:

•Very real concerns about costs. In lean economic times, states are more keenly aware than ever of the expense of clearing the high legal hurdles that should be and are required for putting a person to death.

•Very real concerns about accuracy. In 2009, the center said, nine men who had been sentenced to death were exonerated and freed — the second-highest number since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

•Laws that offer life-without-parole alternatives in sentencing. Judges, juries and prosecutors are recognizing dangerous inmates do not have to be put to death to keep society safe.

Count Alabama in on all these fronts.

There is no reason at all to be confident here that mistakes in death sentences aren’t being made; that the people on Death Row got adequate legal representation; or that death sentences are handed out fairly without regard to the wealth, status or color of the people involved. And speaking of fairness, Alabama is unique in the country in letting elected judges sentence defendants to die even when a jury decides a death sentence is not appropriate.

For all of these reasons and more, Alabama should, at the very least, be moving toward scaling back its use of the death penalty. It would be even more appropriate if we stopped it altogether.

Alabama receives $20.9M fed grant to improve prison energy efficiency


Published: Birmingham Business Journal

By Jimmy DeButts Staff

The Alabama Department of Corrections has been awarded a $20.9 million economic stimulus grant to help cut prison utility bills by upgrading equipment at state facilities.

The department will replace inefficient equipment with new devices that are energy efficient and, in some cases, use renewable energy technology, according to a news release. The improvements will save corrections more than $2 million per year, according to department estimates.

The planned upgrades include:

· Replacement of lighting systems at several facilities with devices that produce an equivalent amount of light using lower wattage bulbs.

· Replacement of old kitchen equipment, including mobile hot carts, ovens, broilers and steam kettles, with Energy-Star models that use less energy and cook food faster.

· Installation of new temperature control and monitoring systems for walk-in refrigerators and freezers. The systems optimize the operation of units and record and log data to help facility managers detect and fix problems earlier.

· Replacement of old air conditioners and heat pumps with high-efficiency split system heat pumps that both heat and cool.

· Installation of programmable thermostats in administrative areas to automatically reduce heating and cooling during times the buildings are not occupied such as nights and weekends.

· Purchase of three biomass generators for Limestone Correctional Facility. The systems will convert wood chips into gases that can generate limited electrical power.

· Establishment of a centrally-located biogas plant that will collect food and oil waste from prison kitchens and process it into methane gas. The gas can be used to power some kitchen equipment that currently uses propane gas as a fuel.

Montgomery Advertiser: Alabama prison violence said not reported


Read the article at Montgomery Advertiser.com or below.

Opinion

December 23, 2009

When the Alabama Department of Corrections was expending lots of taxpayer dollars to fight a lawsuit by an inmate’s family to open its records, we asked in an editorial what the agency was trying to hide.

Perhaps now Alabamians know the answer to that question.

According to both a prisoner rights group and a group representing corrections officers, records released in that lawsuit indicate the department consistently has underreported violent incidents at the high security Donaldson Correctional facility near Bessemer.

The allegations by these groups raise serious questions about the accuracy of reports on assaults and other violent incidents in the state’s many other prison facilities.

According to the Southern Center for Human Rights, an analysis of records ordered released by the courts showed that the department’s Monthly Statistical Report for April 2008 to April 2009 underreported the number of assaults against inmates and correctional officers in every month but one.

Among the inaccuracies alleged by the center were:

The department’s March 2009 public statistical report stated that there were no assaults, fights or sexual assaults at Donaldson, but internal department reports show two knifings, two other assaults with weapons, and seven assaults or fights without weapons in that month. The center claims the reports show one of the assaults required a prisoner to be transported to the hospital for eye trauma; another required a prisoner to be transported to the hospital after being beaten in the face with a lock; a third prisoner was severely beaten with a piece of wood; another alleged he was raped.

The center claims the department disclosed one “assault with serious injury” between April 2008 and April 2009, when at least 16 prisoners at Donaldson were taken to outside hospitals for emergency treatment for violent trauma during the period.

In June, the Correction Department statistical report showed no assaults or fights at Donaldson. But court-released documents show six fights or assaults, including one in which a prisoner was stabbed 15 times and had to be taken to an outside hospital.

But it isn’t just an outside prisoner rights organization making such claims. The Alabama Correctional Organization said that the reports released in the lawsuit show the department is drastically underreporting attacks on officers.

The organization claims the department publicly reported 45 assaults by prisoners against officers from January 2008 through July of this year, but that internal documents show 68 actually occurred during the period.

Corrections Department officials deny knowingly reported false statistics. But whether they did it knowingly still begs the question of the accuracy of such reports by the department’s other prisons.

Gov. Bob Riley has made openness in government a watch phrase for his administration. But such open reporting is worth less than nothing if it is not accurate.

We urge Riley to require that Department of Correction officials review all internal records and update public statistics to accurately reflect what really goes on in the prisons. And they should do it for every facility, not just Donaldson.

Video conferencing keeps inmates in jail


Read the article at The Brewton Standard.com or below.

By Adam Prestridge, Special to the Standard

Published @ TheBrewtonStandard.com

Monday, December 28, 2009 10:06 AM CST

Video conferencing in a prison setting has its advantages and is becoming increasingly popular. The Alabama Department of Corrections, in conjunction with the Alabama Administrative Office of the Courts and the Circuit Court of Escambia County, has launched a video pilot at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore.

The problem is common nationwide. Processing and transporting inmates to and from court is costly, with inherent risk to public safety and security personnel. Video conferencing, that includes full motion video and audio via closed circuit cameras, connects the courthouse with the prison and eliminates the dilemma.

In early November, Circuit Judge Bert Rice heard four cases via video conference with inmates incarcerated at Holman Correctional Facility. “I like the idea of being able to look at someone and see them, and for them to see the judge. From an administration of justice standpoint, it’s a better situation to include them more fully in the process.”

Video conferencing has been used in various federal and state courts for more than a decade. The process, when fully implemented, could save Alabama hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Chief Justice (Sue Bell) Cobb immediately saw the utility of being able to complete this process,” said Marty Ramsay, Deputy Director of the Administrative Office of Courts. “We feel we need to embrace this technology on a statewide scale.”

It is not uncommon for judges to hold thousands of post conviction hearings on an annual basis, most filed by inmates behind bars. Such actions may raise claims of innocence or newly discovered evidence. In 2008, 1,383 such motions were filed with state trial and appellate courts. In Atmore alone, more than 2,200 inmates are housed at Holman and Fountain Correctional

Facilities – enough to keep Judge Rice and the Escambia County courts busy.

“We learn as we go, but the technology has certainly arrived and we need to

use and expand it,” said Rice. “This is a good circuit to be the pilot with two large prisons and a large volume of inmate cases. We can better serve justice with these proceedings.”

Video court hearings will be conducted in a manner that honors the due process rights of all defendants by providing a clear, accurate visual and audio representation of all parties involved in the proceedings. The link was established through AOC video gateway directly from the facility to the court. It makes use of the existing IP network so there’s no additional connection cost to the DOC.

“Elmore County is perhaps next,” said Ramsay. “Eventually, we’d like to set up as many as eighteen video conferencing systems across the state. Elmore County is a target based on the number of prisons in that county.”

Expanding the technology statewide – allowing for the potential of accommodating a variety of courtroom proceedings – comes with an estimated price tag of more than $150,000. Video conferencing will potentially save millions over time but with budget reductions at the AOC and the ADOC funds are not available to complete the expansion. Ultimately, the use of new technology will help to conserve valuable corrections, court and law enforcement resources.

MENTAL HEALTH DAY @ STATE LEGISLATURE


SAVE THE DATE

MENTAL HEALTH DAY @ STATE LEGISLATURE

Please Join

NAMI Alabama and WINGS Over Alabama

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Alabama State House

30 South Union Street

Montgomery, Alabama

6th Floor Lobby

9:30am – 2:30pm

Hear from Legislative Leaders about the Budgets

Meet your Legislators

Tell Our Story

More Info to Come

Please call the NAMI Alabama Office to RSVP

1-800-626-4199

Tuscaloosa News Opinion


From the Tuscaloosa News:

Bill Formby Northport

Published: Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 12:10 a.m.

Dear Editor: There is an old saying that one definition of insanity is when someone keeps doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. For as long as I can remember, the good folks of Alabama have insisted upon longer prison sentences for those convicted of crimes, regardless of the nature of the crimes.

Circuit judges run for office promising to be hard on criminals, as do appellant court judges. Similarly, the prison system in this state has been in trouble due to overcrowded conditions for more than 40 years. All this and the crime picture hasn’t changed in this state.

The corrections system never seems to have enough money to carry out the job the way the people of Alabama want it done. That, of course, is the bane of other things in this state. Alabamians want a lot but have little taste for paying for it or to be reasonable about being reasonable about priorities.

In today’s Tuscaloosa News (Dec. 16), the director of the department of corrections indicated that some relief from the budget shortfall could be gained if judges would follow the voluntary guidelines instead of handing out lengthy prison sentences. But judges want to be re-elected so they do not want to be seen as soft on crime. Prosecutors are worse still. They feel that they must get the longest sentence possible with little regard to what is best. What they all forget is that someone, somewhere has to pay for this “lock’em up and throw away the key” mentality.