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1A Across America: Mass Incarceration in the Deep South

Police officers block Broad Street near the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Police officers block Broad Street near the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Last April, the U.S. Department of Justice said the Alabama prison system is unsafe and unconstitutional.

And recent reform efforts haven’t changed a documented culture of violence and abuse inside the prisons, according to new reporting.

The Montgomery Advertiser interviewed over two dozen people incarcerated inside Alabama prisons.

The consistency of experiences — from prison to prison, from lifers to the newly incarcerated, from young and old, from black and white — paint a chilling portrait of corruption, violence and the disintegration of state institutions purported to correct and rehabilitate.

Just last month, the Alabama Department of Corrections announced the death of three inmates within the span of eight days.

In response to the April Department of Justice report, Governor Kay Ivey released a statement saying the Department of Corrections already acknowledged many of the same areas of concern.

“Governor Ivey’s commitment to working closely with the Legislature to resolve this generational problem will ultimately lead to a 21st Century prison system,” said Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn.

In this 1A Across America conversation, we talk to a reporter, a lawmaker and an advocate about the state of Alabama prisons and efforts to reform these institutions.

Produced by Avery Kleinman.

1A Across America is funded through a grant from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB is a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967 that is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting.


Mary Scott Hodgin, Health & science reporter, WBHM; @maryscotthodgin

Cam Ward, Alabama state senator (R); @SenCamWard

Carla Crowder, Executive director, Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice; @AlaAppleseed

Theresa Holmes, Mother of Matthew Holmes. Matthew died by suicide at the Limestone Correctional Facility in Harvest, Alabama

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© 2019 WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio.

Copyright 2019 WAMU 88.5

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