JUDGE RULES ‘SYSTEMATIC INADEQUACIES’ FUELED ALABAMA PRISON SUICIDES, ORDERS MONITOR

A federal judge has determined that the risk of suicide among state prisoners in Alabama “is so severe and imminent” that he ordered the state’s Department of Corrections to immediately implement permanent mental health remedies to address “severe and systematic inadequacies.”

The decision by Judge Myron Thompson on Saturday, comes after 15 prisoners killed themselves in the span of 15 months.

In a 210-page ruling that includes summaries of the circumstances leading to each of the inmate suicides, Thompson agreed with prisoners’ attorneys that the spike had reached crisis levels, a result of what he previously said are “horrendously inadequate” mental health services provided to inmates.

In addition to ordering the Alabama Department of Corrections to comply with a host of court ordered measures he issued in a 2017 ruling, Thompson also required the state to establish an internal monitoring system and said the court will appoint an interim external monitor to oversee the department’s progress.

“The more someone fails to do something he agreed to do, the bigger the need to supervise whether he does it in the future,” Thompson wrote, adding that existing monitoring efforts “have been too little, too late.”

Five of the 15 suicides occurred between January and March this year. In one instance a prisoner with “severe mental illnesses, as well as intellectual and physical disabilities” killed himself 10 days after testifying in court that he had not received adequate treatment, according to the documents. In another, a man hanged himself roughly 12 hours after being transferred from mental health observation to a segregated cell, rather than being placed on suicide watch.

Although ADOC acknowledged in the court documents that persistent and severe correctional understaffing has significantly contributed to its noncompliance, attorneys had argued that prison officials were working on a plan to reduce the rash of suicides.

“The defendants argue that they cannot prevent all suicides in ADOC. It is true that, as in the free world, not all suicides can be prevented. But this reality in no way excuses ADOC’s substantial and pervasive suicide-prevention inadequacies. Unless and until ADOC lives up to its Eighth Amendment obligations, avoidable tragedies will continue,” Thompson wrote.

Lawyers from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, which represent prisoners in the ongoing case, welcomed the increased oversight.

“The court’s opinion recognizes the urgency of the situation facing ADOC. The system remains grossly understaffed and people are dying as a result,” Maria Morris, senior supervising attorney at the SPLC told Mary Scott Hodgin, reporter for NPR member station WBHM.

“The time has long since come for ADOC to comply with its constitutional obligations, Morris added in a written statement.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice determined the state “routinely violates the constitutional rights of prisoners by failing to protect them from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and sexual abuse,” NPR’s Debbie Elliott reported.

The immediate steps ordered by Thompson were intended to address specific failures by the ADOC. They include adequately-trained personnel for suicide risk assessments; placing people who are suicidal or potentially suicidal on suicide watch; following up with inmates released from suicide watch; and limiting segregated confinement for prisoners released from suicide watch.

Additionally, ADOC must enforce existing policies, including 30-minute check-ins on people in segregation, where most of the suicides occurred, and requiring that staff take immediate life-saving measures when they find an inmate attempting suicide, including immediately cutting down inmates who have hanged themselves.

originally published here

A mothers cry for help

Kharon Davis has been held in the Houston County Jail for 9 years with no trial and no bond. The conditions within the jail are archaic, hateful, psychologically damaging and unconstitutional. Kharon is held in 23 hour lockdown for 4 years, in a constantly cold cell that is unhygienic, denied access to the law library, exercise yard and even the main inmate population.

Kharon Davis Initiative Flyer
Kharon Davis Initiative Flyer

Why has Kharon been denied his constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial? Please come and show your support for Kharon and the other inmates, many of whom have not even been to court yet, let alone been convicted of a crime, and to demand that Jail Commander Keith Reed drastically improve the conditions inline with the Department of Justices, National Institute Of Corrections, jails standards.

Inmate restrained in a chair and beaten unconscious, they broke his fingers too…

James Bailey in Houston County Jail
James Bailey in Houston County Jail

Jon B. Carroll from The Henry Report has obtained and released details of a horrific case of purposeful persecution and prosecution of a totally innocent man. James Bailey, in addition to being set up on drug charges, underwent a horrific and sustained beating, to the point of unconsciousness, he was taken to hospital and the following day, back at the jail, the beating continued including being handcuffed with his hands behind his back for 8-12 hours in a restraint chair, beaten with a metal pipe, maced, beaten around his head, punched and kicked all over his body, which resulted in brain and permanent nerve damage. They broke his fingers too, he also required stitches for some of his many injuries.  

 

C.J. Hatfield (age 22)
C.J. Hatfield (age 22)

Bailey was drugged at one point while he was in jail, given twice the allowable dosage and in the drug induced state (Prozac and Vistaril) gave what is interpreted by the Sheriff’s Dept as a confession to the murder of C.J. Hatfield. A murder, that he didn’t commit as he was in a different state at the time, which the Police, investigators and DA’s Office knew, but seemingly chose to prosecute him for it anyway. Click here to read the full story

When Carroll asked one of the former defence lawyers why was this not revealed, he said that Judge, Larry Anderson, would not do several things, he kept Bailey in chains and shackles in front of the jurors, we were given no money to hire a private investigator to simply verify the multiple alibis, nothing. We were scared, they wanted this guy guilty and we have to live here. The jury convicted Bailey after 15 minutes of deliberation, the exculpatory evidence was never shared. Bailey was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

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Testimony of Stacey Ross

1/31/2015

Testimony of Stacey R. and her experience of Houston County Jail, Dothan AL
Testimony of Stacey Ross. and her experience of Houston County Jail, Dothan AL

I was picked up from Montgomery Womens Facility on Monday 12/22/14 at approximately 12.30 pm. My court date wasn’t until Tuesday 1/6/15 at 8.30 am. When i asked the transport officer, officer Hill, why i was being transported so early, he stated there would be no transport prior to my court date due to the holidays. As officer Hill was shackling me at the gate i asked him if Houston County was still as bad as the last time i was there and his exact response was “It’s probably worse”.

I was the only inmate on the van and officer Hill was the only officer. The handcuffs (I was also belly chained and had shackles on my feet) were extremely tight and uncomfortable. By the time we arrived at HCJ (about 2:30 pm) and the hand cuffs were removed, my wrists were swollen and bruised. I was taken straight into docket and was strip searched and put into an orange jumpsuit. I was then put into a cell for about 7 hours. I was taken out at about 9:30 pm and made to strip again. I was sprayed with some sort of “de-lousing” agent on my head and genital area.  Continue reading

Appalling Conditions In Houston County Jail

This blog was started in order to highlight the treatment of inmates whilst held in Houston County Jail Dothan, AL. Upon entering the Jail you may be subjected to the following conditions, we believe these to be unlawful, unconstitutional, inhumane and cruel and unusual punishments. Do they really expect us to stand by idly, thereby deeming this treatment of our citizens as acceptable?

  • Segregation/confinement for an indeterminate amount of time, used as a veiled threat or in retaliation for complaining about conditions or for being considered insubordinate or for even questioning officers about or requesting information
  • Showering/bathing conditions of female inmates in-particular in front of male officers through transparent curtains/cubicles, despite the Prison Rape Elimination Act’s standards for Prisons and Jails
  • Female inmates are physically checked by Jail Guards to prove that they are menstruating, before being issued sanitary towels or tampons. This degrading and inhumane treatment is in direct contradiction of PREA Laws
  • Fear and intimidation used as a method of control when enquiring about or trying to follow grievance procedures, especially for Alabama Department Of Corrections inmates
  • Forcibly made to have hair cuts, despite it being in compliance with ADOC rules and regulations

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