MONTGOMERY — Alabama’s prison system has changed a policy that required placing inmates who file a complaint into segregation while the issue is being investigated.
According to reports, those who complain will no longer lose privileges. The action was part of policy changes the prison system made after the Montgomery-based Equal Justice Initiative released a report that found Alabama Department of Corrections employees had illegal sexual contact with women at Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka.
Prisons Commissioner Kim Thomas said the change is being made so inmates are not discouraged from making complaints.
“We want to make sure all female and male inmates are comfortable with making a complaint,” Thomas said.
Thomas also said an inmate who files a complaint will be informed about the outcome of the investigation in writing. He said the policy change will be retroactive, which means any inmate who has filed a complaint since 2009 will be given written notice of the outcome.
Thomas said the system is making changes aimed at improving the quality of life for prisoners. Thomas has changed the warden at Tutwiler, but he said that was unrelated to Equal Justice’s report.
“It’s really part of an overall scheme of things here in the department,” said Brian Corbett, spokesman for the prison system. “We’ve had a lot of retirements and promotions lately. From time to time, different skill sets are needed.”
Before the report was released in May, Equal Justice attorneys spent several weeks interviewing women at the prison and then months collecting employment and court records.
The report said there was widespread sexual abuse and violence at the prison.
EJI Director Bryan Stevenson said the U.S. Justice Department is investigating Tutwiler. But Thomas said he has not received notification of an investigation.