Inhumane prison system needs reform

Alabama Department of Corrections runs what is considered one of the worst prison systems in the nation with the highest prison homicide rate in the country.

In addition, it has been accused of violating the Eighth Amendment by not preventing homicides. Without proper confrontation of this problem, the tortured treatment of today’s prisoners will only continue.

After the recent investigation of Alabama’s prisons, the U.S. Justice Department concluded that the combination of overcrowding and understaffing of these prisons has resulted in numerous murders and sexual assaults that are often discovered long after they occur. By the time prison guards react, most of these inhumane acts have already been committed, with murder victims bleeding out in front of other inmates.

According to DOJ’s official report, Alabama’s prison guards have failed to prevent prisoner-on-prisoner violence and sexual abuse. Prisoners are often found with concealed weapons and drugs, yet enforcement to prevent this rarely occurs.

Without proper funding for more prison space and adequate staffing, the state of Alabama will be forced to find an alternative solution to improve prison facilities.

However, this problem isn’t just centered in Alabama; the need for prison reform is present in all states. Overcrowded and understaffed prisons have become a constant problem and if the government does not send fewer people to jail for petty crimes, model state prisons after federal prisons or appropriate more funding toward prisons, numerous inhumane safety violations will continue to occur.

Instead of locking up every individual who has ever committed a crime, we need to focus more on those who have been convicted of violent, high-profile crimes. Prisons are meant for retribution, deterrence, incapacitation and rehabilitation, not just to minimize crime. If letting out low-risk inmates means preventing future violent crimes from happening within prison walls, I would say the trade-off is worth it.

DOJ’s recent investigation of Alabama’s state prisons has made on thing clear—the U.S.  prison system is in desperate need of reform. The government should provide more funding for state prisons to alleviate the growing problem of lack of prison guards and jail cells.

We should be remodeling state prisons after the foundation of federal prisons. If we do not reform prisons like those in Alabama, we are sentencing criminals to a fate filled with institutionalized torture.