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DOJ shows interest in inmate lawsuit against Alabama corrections

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, Thursday, June 27, 2024. House Republicans have filed a lawsuit against Garland for the audio recording of President Joe Biden’s interview with a special counsel. The legal action Monday, July 1, asks the courts to enforce their subpoena and reject the White House’s effort to withhold the materials from Congress. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
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FR159526 AP
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, Thursday, June 27, 2024. House Republicans have filed a lawsuit against Garland for the audio recording of President Joe Biden’s interview with a special counsel. The legal action Monday, July 1, asks the courts to enforce their subpoena and reject the White House’s effort to withhold the materials from Congress. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

The U.S. Department of Justice, which sued Alabama over prison conditions, filed a statement of interest in a lawsuit by prisoners who said they are subjected to unconstitutional levels of violence and excessive force. The Justice Department officials filed the statement last week in a 2014 lawsuit filed by inmates at St. Clair Correctional Facility. Justice Department officials said Alabama's request for summary judgment should be rejected if there is a genuine dispute over the accusations because, "these allegations, if proven, establish Eighth Amendment violations."

"The Constitution requires prison officials to take reasonable steps to protect the people in their custody," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division said in a press release. "We must not allow violence and sexual abuse to run rampant in our prisons and jails. We are committed to securing the constitutional rights of all people, including those who are incarcerated."

The Alabama Department of Corrections will file a response later this month.

A group of inmates housed at St. Clair Correctional Facility filed a federal lawsuit in 2014 alleging the Alabama Department of Corrections has failed to address a pattern of excessive force, prisoner-on-prisoner violence and sexual assault at the prison. The maximum-security prison houses about 1,000 male inmates

The Justice Department filed a civil lawsuit in 2020 against the state of Alabama accusing state officials of failing to protect male prisoners across the state from inmate-on-inmate violence and excessive force at the hands of prison staff.

The Alabama Department of Corrections has disputed the allegations in both cases.

The Alabama Public Radio news team produced a national award-winning documentary on prison reform in the State. Click below to listen again to “…and justice for all.”

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