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DOJ says ‘excessive force’ used in Alabama men’s prisons violates Constitution

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) determined on Thursday that the treatment received by men in Alabama’s prisons violates the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution that protects against cruel and unusual punishments.

The allegation specifically references the use of “excessive force at the hands of prison staff” as the treatment in violation of the Constitution.

Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division wrote in a public letter to Governor Kay Ivey that his department has “reasonable cause to believe that the uses of excessive force occurring within Alabama’s prisons give rise to systemic unconstitutional conditions.”

The allegations from the DOJ were made in conjunction with the three U.S. Attorneys in Alabama, who all expressed a desire to rectify the issue.

The full report on the matter says that the excessive force experienced by imprisoned men consisted of “the use of batons, chemical spray, physical altercations such as kicking — often result in serious injuries and, sometimes, death.”

The report also states there have been “numerous incidents where uses of force were not properly and thoroughly investigated or were handled solely within a prison’s disciplinary process, rather than through the formal I&I investigative process.”

The report issued Thursday is the culmination of an investigation that began in October 2016.

A previous report from the DOJ’s investigation, publicized in 2019, said that Alabama was violating the Eighth Amendment by failing to protect prisoners from violence and failing to provide them sanitary living conditions.

The report made public Thursday added “excessive force” as a third manner in which Alabama’s male prisoners were being treated unconstitutionally.

“We hope, however, to resolve this matter through a more cooperative approach and look forward to working with you to address the alleged violations of law we have identified. The lawyers assigned to this investigation will be contacting ADOC [Alabama Department of Corrections] to discuss this matter in further detail,” Dreiband added in his letter to Ivey.

Ivey has previously announced plans to build three new men’s prisons, and her administration is currently reviewing two proposals from construction groups that say they can take on the project.

The governor has mentioned the building of new prisons as a big step in improving conditions for the prisoners held by Alabama.

State Senator Tom Butler (R-Madison) said recently he expects more details on the plan to be released to the public in August.

“I will not rest until we have an acceptable solution to this problem, which cannot be ignored and will not go away on its own,” Ivey said earlier in 2020.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@new-yhn.local or on Twitter @HenryThornton95