State Prisons Commissioner Kim Thomas on Friday released an action plan for Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women to take “aggressive steps” to address allegations of rape at the facility.
The release of the plan follows a three-day visit by the National Institute of Corrections in September to review the Wetumpka facility.
Thomas said he invited the NIC to tour the facility after the nonprofit group Equal Justice Initiative released a report that found widespread rapes of inmates by Tutwiler employees.
The four-person NIC team produced a 38-page report on the prison, and Thomas conceded Friday that the agency found an “oppressive, intimidating atmosphere” at the facility.
The NIC team met with staff members after its visit, and Thomas said changes began almost immediately.
“The very next day we began to implement changes while we awaited the final report,” Thomas said.
EJI Executive Director Bryan Stevenson said it was a good sign that Thomas invited the NIC on his own accord but added that a long-term solution is going to be needed to fix the state’s prisons.
“I think this report really wakes people up,” Stevenson said.
He added the report points to issues that are systemwide, including a lack of funding and prison overcrowding.
Stevenson and Thomas both said Tutwiler is at least 90 percent over capacity. Thomas said it also is only 60 percent staffed.
Thomas would not go into details Friday about how many ADOC employees had been fired or prosecuted in connection with sexual assaults at Tutwiler. He said there had been one pregnancy as the result of a rape of an inmate by a correctional employee.
Among the problems found in the report were a lack of security cameras and a lack of female employees.
In his action plan, Thomas vows to pursue at least $3.2 million to provide cameras and monitoring equipment at Tutwiler.
The plan calls for the recruitment and hiring of female correctional officers to work at Tutwiler and directing any new trainees with ADOC from the Montgomery area to be assigned to either Tutwiler or the Montgomery Women’s Facility.
Other directives in the action plan include more training in the Prison Rape Elimination Act and changes to improve conditions in general at the prison.