HOT BLAST: Alabama prisons, bad for a very long time
Jan 21, 2014 | 1096 views |  0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The news this month is bad for Alabama and its Department of Corrections:

Alabama Department of Corrections officials and Gov. Robert Bentley's office say they had been working to improve conditions at Julia Tutwiler Prison before a federal investigation found evidence of inmates being sexually abused by staff and fellow prisoners.



A report from the U.S. Department of Justice issued late last week said instances of sexual abuse at the hands of prison staff and others have been underreported for nearly 20 years. The report also said jail staff condoned a strip show inside the facility and would deliberately watch inmates shower and use the restroom.

Federal officials visited the prison in April and recently sent their findings to Bentley in a 36-page letter. Investigators have said prisoners there fear for their safety.

The allegations are disturbing and, sadly, nothing new when it comes to prisons in Alabama. For almost 80 years after the Civil War Alabama's prisons operated a sort of quasi-slavery system of blacks, many of whom were convicted on trumped up charges. A 2008 book by Douglas A. Blackmon - Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II - painstakingly details the corruption of the justice system in Alabama and across the South:

By 1900, the South’s judicial system had been wholly reconfigured to make one of its primary purposes the coercion of African Americans to comply with the social customs and labor demands of whites. It was not coincidental that 1901 also marked the final full disenfranchisement of nearly all blacks throughout the South.



Earlier in his book, Blackmon wrote:

In Alabama alone, hundreds of thousands of pages of public documents attest to the arrests, subsequent sale, and delivery of thousands of African Americans into mines, lumber camps, quarries, farms, and factories. More than thirty thousand pages related to debt slavery cases sit in the files of the Department of Justice at the National Archives. Altogether, millions of mostly obscure entries in the public record offer details of a forced labor system of monotonous enormity. 
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