However, the judge did instruct the Justice Department to be more specific in its claims against the state.
A federal judge has denied Alabama’s request to dismiss aspects of the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against the state and its corrections system.
According to Alabama Live, U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor issued the ruling late last week. In it, he refused to strike the government’s claim that under-staffing in Alabama prisons have exacerbated violence behind bars.
While Proctor dismissed Alabama’s motion, he also ordered the Department of Justice to be more specific in some of its claims, saying that some of the agency’s allegations are inappropriately broad.
AL.com notes that the Department of Justice filed its lawsuit in December 2020 after concluding a two-year investigation. The D.O.J. found that the state’s corrections department failed to protect male inmates from violence and sexual abuse, thereby violating their constitutional rights. The agency later added another claim, saying that Alabama corrections staff frequently use excessive force against prisoners.
Although attorneys for Alabama have acknowledged that their prisons system is troubled, they denied that conditions violate inmates’ constitutional rights.
The Associated Press observes that Alabama has repeatedly tried to have the Department of Justice’s lawsuit dismissed, arguing that its claims are not sufficiently specific. In June, for instance, Alabama charged that, while the Justice Department names 12 prisons in the lawsuit, its complaint only mentioned four—two of which are partially closed.
Proctor, adds Alabama Live, agreed with the state, calling the amended complaint “a shotgun pleading” in which the Department of Justice mentioned issues such as “lack of adequate surveillance cameras,” “defective locks,” and “and insufficient convex mirrors,” but did not name any prisons in which these problems purportedly exist.
However, Proctor denied Alabama’s assertion that staffing issues should be stricken from the lawsuit because the state is already under court orders to amend the issue.
As LegalReader.com reported earlier this month, Alabama attracted renewed scrutiny when the state’s Republican governor, Kay Ivey, approved a plan to use $1.3 billion in coronavirus relief funds to build two new 4,000-bed prisons. While Gov. Ivey said that the construction of the facilities will make Alabama prisons safer, critics say new buildings will not fix the system’s underlying problems, such as poor staff supervision, mismanagement, and general neglect.
In a separate article, AL.com noted that a Bibb Correctional Facility inmate who had previously sued corrections officials for showing deliberate indifference toward prisoners’ safety was murdered in an inmate-on-inmate assault. Bibb, says AL.com, had been attacked by another inmate in 2016, and asserted that corrections officials took no action to investigate the assault or adequately treat his injuries.