Saturday, April 11, 2009

Donaldson Prison Under Inspection

A civil rights group has asked a federal magistrate to allow an expert to do a one-day inspection of a maximum security prison in Bessemer. Capt. Lloyd Wallace of the Limestone County Correctional Facility in Capshaw, referenced overcrowding at the Limestone prison in his statement to the court. Sarah Geraghty, an attorney for the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, said Wednesday conditions at the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer have continued to deteriorate since a lawsuit was filed Feb. 26 against the state. U.S. Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel Jr. of Montgomery has given the state Department of Corrections until April 16 to respond to the request. The statement by Wallace, president of the 500-member Alabama Correctional Organization, said according to the Department of Corrections' February 2009 report, state prisons are holding "nearly double the number of people they were built to hold." "Donaldson has an occupancy rate of 176.5 percent," said Wallace, who referred to the Bessemer prison as a "ticking time bomb." "Limestone has an occupancy rate of 166.7 percent. In addition, more than 1,400 people who have been sentenced and are currently in county jails are awaiting transfer to the state prison system." The center has asked Capel for permission to have Steve J. Martin, an Austin, Texas, attorney and corrections consultant, to inspect the prison one business day the week of April 20 or May 11. Prison Commissioner Richard Allen said Wednesday he did not believe the inspection is warranted. "We don't think there's any emergency that requires any expedited procedure," he said. "Donaldson, like all (prisons) are crowded, we are short on personnel, but it's not due to deliberate indifference. We've got people working hard but resources only go so far." Geraghty said her group wants an expedited order to inspect Donaldson because inmates and corrections officers are at a growing risk. Since the complaint was filed, the motion said, violence has escalated, with two stabbings in March, an assault on another inmate the same month, a suicide in February and a serious assault on an inmate in January. In addition, the motion said the Department of Corrections is in the process of "making structural changes to the prison, including the removal of three-man cells."
However, Allen said he had already ordered those changes at Donaldson before the complaint was filed in February.

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