Alabama's Women's Prison Is ‘Ticking Time Bomb'

(WOMENSENEWS)-An Alabama women's prison has been judged so overcrowded and understaffed that a federal judge ordered state officials to devise a plan by Dec. 30 to relieve the unsafe conditions.

Tutwiler prison in Wetumpka, Ala. is built to hold a maximum of 417 inmates, but currently houses 1,017 prisoners. There are 92 corrections officers at the prison, with an average of 16 working during any given shift, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. Critics say the inadequate supervision poses a risk to both the officers and the inmates.

According to U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson's ruling, fights-sometimes with makeshift weapons made of mop and broom handles and safety razors-are common in the facility. He referred to the prison conditions as “a ticking time bomb,” The Associated Press reported.

“The situation there has become so volatile with people living in large open dormitories, extremely idle with almost no supervision at all. It is a recipe for violence,” said Tamara Serwer, an attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights, which represented the 15 inmates who brought the case against the prison.

The governor and prisons commissioner have until Dec. 30 to submit a plan to fix the unsafe conditions, which violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, according to the judge.

Spokesmen for the Department of Corrections and the Governor said the officials were studying the problem and would consider a number of options to relieve overcrowding, including using alternative punishment for non-violent prisoners.

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