One thing is for certain. Tutwiler woman’s prison is definitely not a place where the female criminals of Alabama desire to go. But maybe the real question is, does the failed management of Tutwiler make the State of Alabama a place where anyone who doesn’t already live here want to be?
The deplorable conditions at Tutwiler just seem to keep cropping up in various media reports. First we were apprised of the sexual exploitation of women at the facility by the guards who work there, then reports saying that the inmates are sometimes subjected to cruel and inhumane denial of medical care, now the latest tidings are that so-called “jail-house lawyers” will be stifled by the State of Alabama because, according to state Senator Arthur Orr, inmates who have “too much time on their hands” are just filing frivolous lawsuits.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s answer to the problems at Tutwiler is to contract a Washing DC criminal justice consulting firm to the tune of $500,000 over the next 18 months to analyze and assist with all aspects of prison management. I guess he figures issues like sexually predatory guards, and whether or not to dispense aspirin to an inmate recovering from a major medical operation, and the right to redress of grievance, are difficult decisions that require extensive observation and scientific study prior to resolution – to be determined in a series of committee meetings, of course.
At face value, the entire situation is absolutely ridiculous and completely inexcusable. The facility isn’t really all that large. Recent numbers indicate that Tutwiler is currently housing less than 1000 inmates, and has a staff of about 100. That’s smaller than most of the hundreds of high schools in Alabama. Managing a staff of 100 isn’t exactly rocket science, and while the analogy isn’t exactly parallel, consider that most large grocery stores, Wal-Mart, etc. have a similar size staff.
In fact, running a prison isn’t exactly a new concept. Functional procedures throughout this country are well-established and should not need review from an outside consulting firm to determine where to make adjustments. In short, the troubles at Tutwiler should have already been solved by prison commissioner Kim Thomas.
In 2012, the Warden of Tutwiler was switched with the Warden from Kilby prison. That might have been a good idea, except Kilby isn’t exactly known for it’s effectiveness in regard to prison management either – remembering that (cop killer) Farron Barksdale was apparently executed, in my opinion, by the deliberate indifference of prison guards at Kilby in 2007. The Kilby warden at the time Farron Barksdale was murdered isn’t the same one who switched with the Tutwiler Warden, however, the apparent failure of the more recent Warden to make requisite changes seems to indicate an endemic problem in the State Prison system.
Unfortunately, that brings us to another facet of the overall problem, which is the systemic corruption in the municipal law enforcement community. Just check some of the articles I’ve written for TOCC.tv and you’ll get the idea. ( TOCC.tv keyword: Gestapo ) The municipal level is where the problem really begins. In my rocket science analysis of the situation, Huntsville is the perfect example where Mayor Tommy Battle actually represents the business community and runs the city as a business for their benefit, and then allows the police department to run itself.
The deck in the police department is subsequently stacked by premeditated organization to include those officers who tend to be extreme and to represent the special interests of militia types. In order for the city to satisfy affirmative action requirements, racial balance has previously been achieved in numbers, but not in reality, where departments and functions (including the fire department), tend to remain segregated. Each group festers unto themselves and eventually they begin to run each of their fiefdoms according to their own militia gangland type standards – the mayor is out to lunch with the next big box store real estate developer. The mayor and city council aren’t really too concerned with constitutional jurisprudence. They have repeatedly demonstrated that their concern is really only with risk management and economic efficiency.
At Tutwiler, instead of recognizing the mismanagement of a relatively small staff, it seems the Governor just wants to shuffle around liability in a cost effective manner. A good house cleaning is indicated beginning with the dismissal of Kim Thomas, and subsequently the current warden. Commissioner and warden are professional level positions that should already be well-educated in criminal justice and incarceration procedures. However, their replacements should not come from within the system that is clearly suffering from that endemic corruption. Next, the staff should be routed out sending the offenders down the road – and into one of the available bunks in the next gender appropriate facility. The remaining staff should be subject to supervision and surveillance that should have already been in place, and that should be installed if it hasn’t been already. It may even be time to consider building a new facility that has appropriate modern infrastructure and safeguards built into place. Maybe that instead of raising municipal sales taxes and spending state money on Tommy Battle’s pet highway project to benefit his real estate buddies. The replacement staff should not come from any other type of law-enforcement or incarceration facility inside of Alabama either. Too many bad attitudes and a lack of integrity will just resume the culturally degenerated cycle.
Finally, the Governor and the TEA Party Zealots in the state legislature need to quit making excuses for the results of their cut-throat march to decadence, greed and fascism. Everyone involved in the equation agrees there are serious problems, why then deny redress of grievance to inmates who have been exposing apparently real problems? Obviously, the problems are not trivial and frivolous after all. Why spend half a million dollars on an outside consulting firm to simply go about doing what the incompetent prison commissioner should have already done? That money would go a long way to retraining the remaining misguided guards, buying plenty of aspirin for aches and pains, and providing medical care when appropriate and needed. Why not keep that money in Alabama?
There are those people who will read this and assume the same sort of cloddish attitude that manifested itself in the vulgar behaviour by some of the Tutwiler guards. The women who have committed crimes deserve their punishment, but how that punishment is meted out tells quite a lot about the ethics, integrity, and character of our culture and society today. If we choose to denigrate inmates to cruel and inhumane punishments – then we are also denigrating ourselves. Aside from that, when many of the girls return to the mainstream, is it really a good idea for them to be that much more hardened, and that much more disillusioned? A fair and measured punishment should foster contrition and respect. If it doesn’t, then we have to ask what is wrong with society, what is wrong with us – what are we doing wrong?
Cut throat indifference by the Republican branch of the neo-nazi party would no doubt have efficient economic results. But in a country where there already is a low level civil war brewing, as evidenced by the emergence of extremist groups like the TEA Party and Occupy movement, is it really a good idea for government officials like Huntsville’s Mayor Tommy Battle, State Senator Arthur Orr, and Governor Robert Bentley – all of which are in the plantation banana tree of H. Bush and the Texas oil cartels – to continue their fascist march toward a totalitarian state? Isn’t the whole charade quickly becoming a culturally dangerous game of domestic Russian roulette?
Obviously, society is doing something wrong. Fix society, and Tutwiler wouldn’t be a problem.
© 2014 – Jim Casey
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