HOT BLAST: More heat for Alabama's prisons
Jul 30, 2013 | 2103 views |  0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas
Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas
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Hardly a month goes by that Alabama lawmakers and law-enforcement officials don't receive a national reminder about the plight of the state's prisons.

Alabama's prison system is woefully overcrowded, holding more than 31,000 inmates. (The system is only designed to house 14,000.) Investigations of sexual harassment have garnered headlines at Tutwiler Prison, which houses the state's female inmates. And now a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that Alabama remains solidly in the nation's top 10 for sending people to prison.

The bureau's data ranked Alabama third nationally, behind Louisiana and Mississippi, for sending the most people per capita to prison last year. Alabama's ratio was 650 new inmates per 100,000 residents in 2012; Louisiana's ratio was 893 per 100,000 residents.

The bureau's report is laden with data; here are a few more pertinent points:

  • The U.S. prison system's total population declined slightly for the third year in a row.
  • Nationally, federal prisons' population increased in 2012, state prisons' overall population decreased.
  • Alabama is 13th nationally in terms of total number of prisoners.
Additionally, there are all sorts of points to be made here, particularly in the prevalence of Deep South states at the top of many of these metrics. That's another important topic for another time, so suffice it to say that Alabama and its Southern brethren -- along with judges, law enforcers and legislators in those states -- need to take a hard look at this data and see what, if anything, can be done. The prison overcrowding and high rates of incarceration in the South can't be overlooked.

-- Phillip Tutor

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