Follow up Report – Legislative panel grills Alabama prison commissioner about sexual misconduct at Tutwiler

By Mike Cason | mcason@al.com 

 January 29, 2013 at 6:26 PM

Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas.jpg

Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas speaks at Tutwiler Prison in Montgomery, Alabama on Jan. 25, 2013. (Mike Cason/mcason@al.com)

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — A legislative panel questioned Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas today for more than an hour about a report prompted by complaints of sexual misconduct by male officers at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.

Thomas told the Joint Legislative Prison Committee he was committed to fixing problems cited in the report and went over an action plan that he first released on Friday, when he also released the reportwritten by a team of consultants from the National Institute of Corrections, which visited Tutwiler for three days in September.

Thomas asked an NIC team to visit Tutwiler last year after the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit group that represents prisoners and indigent defendants,issued a report in May 2012 saying that it received “dozens of complaints of sexual misconduct involving male staff and women prisoners between 2004 and 2011.”

Much of today’s discussion veered into general issues on the prison system, including overcrowding, underfunding, understaffing and sentencing laws.

Rep. John Rogers, D-Birmingham, said problems such as those at Tutwiler can’t be fixed without more money to staff prisons and other changes.

Rep. Allen Farley, R-McCalla, vice chairman of the Joint Legislative Prison Committee, said problems like those reported at Tutwiler, such as sexual misconduct by male officers and failure to properly investigate complaints, are issues of character and supervision and can’t be blamed on funding or understaffing.

Farley asked Thomas for assurances that employees who were responsible would be held accountable.

Some former Tutwiler inmates attended today’s meeting.

Amanda Moore, 25, who lives in Marshall County, said she was at Tutwiler from 2009 to 2012 on a manslaughter conviction.

“I believe Commissioner Thomas is extremely uninformed,” Moore said. “I believe he is trying his best on what knowledge he does have. But as far as the propositions that he’s made, I believe that he is extremely uninformed as to what really takes place. He has a guideline for proper procedures that are supposed to happen in prison, and it just does not work that way.”

Moore said male officers sought to trade for sexual favors from inmates.

“They will try to come on to you sexually and it’s like a bartering and trading business,” Moore said. “ ‘I will give you food, I will give you money, if you give me sex. I will not write you up if you give me sex.’ ”

She said she reported a male officer for advances on her.

“They closed the case before it even got started. They let it lie dormant for like two years,” Moore said.

 Legislative panel grills Alabama prison commissioner about sexual misconduct at Tutwiler

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