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The Millbrook Independent

Jan 30th
Malfeasance at best
Written by News Desk   
Friday, 28 February 2014 17:15

bobmartinBy This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Publisher

In the dictionary on my desk, that word is defined as "the doing of evil, mischief or harm. That pretty much covers what's been going on at Julia Tutwiler State Prison for women just north of Montgomery.

Women throughout Tutwiler face the prospect of sexual abuse, including rape by prison staff, according to a complaint filed with the US Justice Department by the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). From 2009 through 2011 six Tutwiler employees were indicted on charges of custodial sexual misconduct or custodial sexual abuse. All of them pled guilty, but only two served time.

Several Tutwiler prisoners have become pregnant after being raped by guards. And women who complained about the abuse were often placed in solitary. The women of Tutwiler according to EJI executive director Bryan Stevenson, live with "a fear that you're always at risk, that it's not safe to take a shower, that it's not safe to go to sleep when certain officers are in the dorm, that you can be extorted, that you can be manipulated into sexual favors, it's really horrific."

The violations range from verbal abuse and voyeurism to forced sexual contact between prisoners and Tutwiler staff members, according to the report. In the past four years the State Department of Corrections has sent 18 cases of sexual misconduct involving 30 employees to the Elmore County District attorney for prosecution. In the past four years six Tutwiler workers were indicted on charges of "custodial sexual misconduct or abuse." The report criticized what was called "a toxic sexualized environment" at the prison.

Guards and other employees at Tutwiler accused in a U.S. Department of Justice report of demeaning, harassing and sexually abusing inmates have typically pleaded guilty to lesser crimes according to EJI's Stevenson. Despite the serious nature of the allegations, some pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and received only probation or suspended sentences, he added.

The Justice Department report details allegations of rape and brutality at the prison for over two decades. Again, this raises the question as to why do we always have to wait for the Feds to come in and clean up our mess? The violations range from verbal abuse and voyeurism to forced sexual contact between prisoners and Tutwiler staff members, according to the report.

State Sen. Cam Ward of Alabaster commenting to The Birmingham News earlier this week about the situation, said he believes the legislature will act in response to the Tutwiler situation. He said the/DOJ report lays out a framework and possible takeover of the prison system that would mean draconian cuts in funds, which now go for public safety, roads, food safety and other general fund programs that would be eaten up by prisons.

The most likely solution, he says would be to come up with a supplemental appropriation to transfer about 400 inmates out of Tutwiler to relieve overcrowding. He added that that would be only a temporary fix and would not solve the problem.

Truth is, the only real fix is to revise our sentencing policies or raise taxes or perhaps a combination of both.

Car Title Loan Bills before lawmakers

Car title loans, which people use to borrow money on a short-term basis, using their cars as collateral — are illegal in more than half of U.S. states. But debate about those loans is moving to center stage in the legislature. Two bills are pending in the Alabama House of Representatives which would impose new regulations on the industry for the first time in years.

A group, which studies lending practices, has found that nationwide, the average title loan customer borrows $951, postpones payment eight times, and spends a total of $2,142 in interest. Failure to pay can be financially disastrous.

Lenders say they're providing a service for people in need who can't get a loan elsewhere. Those lenders also say they can't stay in business while charging 36 percent interest. Critics of the industry say making loans with a high rate of failure is a bad business model. However Shay Farley, legal director of the group Alabama Appleseed, which advocates for low income people responds, saying "The cornerstone of responsible lending is the ability to repay."

It will be an interesting debate. I think I would want the advice of my banker before voting.

Bob Martin is editor and publisher of The Montgomery Independent. He is the publisher of The Millbrook Independent.

E-mail him at: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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