U.S. Justice Department: Excessive Force in Alabama’s Male Prisons Unconstitutional

The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Alabama on Thursday concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the conditions at Alabama’s prisons for men violate the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. Specifically, the department concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that prisoners are subjected to excessive force at the hands of prison staff.

As required by the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), the department provided the facility with written notice of the supporting facts for these alleged conditions and the minimum remedial measures necessary to address them.

“The Constitution guarantees prisoners the right not to be subjected to excessive force and to be housed in reasonably safe conditions,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “Our investigation found reasonable cause to believe that there is a pattern or practice of using excessive force against prisoners in Alabama’s prisons for men. The Justice Department hopes to work with Alabama to resolve the department’s concerns.”

“I am proud of the work being done to protect the constitutional rights of Alabama prisoners” said Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Lloyd Peeples. “Systemic constitutional violations such as these cannot be ignored and require a comprehensive approach to addressing these problems. We continue to be committed to ensuring that the state implements meaningful reform to meet its constitutional obligations.”

“The results of the investigation into excessive force issues within Alabama’s prisons is distressing and continues to require real and immediate attention,” said U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama Louis Franklin. “We are hopeful that our continued work with State officials can ensure that the Department of Corrections abides by its constitutional obligations.”

“While we recognized the challenges of correcting systemic constitutional deficiencies in Alabama prisons that have existed for decades, now is the time for significant reform. The three U.S. Attorneys in Alabama are committed to a just resolution of this matter,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama Richard Moore.

In April 2019, the department notified Alabama that the Alabama Department of Corrections fails to (1) protect prisoners from physical harm and sexual abuse at the hands of other prisoners; and (2) maintain facilities that are sanitary, safe, or secure.  The department is in negotiations with the State of Alabama in an attempt to reach agreement on the remedies for the constitutional deficiencies identified in the April 2019 Notice Letter.

The Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Alabama initiated the investigation in October 2016 under CRIPA, which authorizes the department to take action when it has reasonable cause to believe there is a pattern or practice of deprivation of constitutional rights of individuals confined to state or local government-run correctional facilities.

The department will be following up to work with the state in an effort to find mutually agreeable settlement terms to address the issues outlined in the report, which can be found here: Use of Force CRIPA Notice Letter (2020) and Cover Letter to Use of Force CRIPA Notice (2020).

This investigation was conducted by attorneys with the Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern, Middle, and Southern Districts of Alabama.  Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the Department by phone at (877) 419-2366 or by email at USAALN.CivilRights@usa.doj.gov.

Additional information about the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

Categories: Crime, News