US DOJ releases findings of probe into conditions at Tutwiler Prison for Women, commissioner announces plan of action

Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama. (Photo courtesy of Rivers A. Langley/SaveRivers/WikiCommons)

The United State Department of Justice released on Friday its findings of an investigation into the conditions of the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, the Alabama Department of Corrections announced today.

Following the probe, which began in March of last year after reports of female prisoners being sexually abused, the DOJ's National Institute of Corrections issued a "Technical Assistance Report" with recommendations for improvements at the state's lone women's prison. The NIC's report has prompted Tutwiler commissioner Kim Thomas to implement a formal "Action Plan" to improve operations at the prison, according to a release.

"We consider allegations of custodial sexual misconduct to be an unacceptable abuse of power," Thomas said.{} "During the last year we have worked tirelessly to implement recommendations of the DOJ's National Institute of Corrections, a review that I requested. Positive reforms have been put in place and those reforms will continue."

The DOJ released a report in January 2013 criticizing the prison's treatment of its inmates, as well as the conditions and workers, who they said were not properly trained.

The NIC assistance report included 58 specific recommendations for improvement, and according to Thomas, the prison has completed 57 of the suggestions to improve "cross-gender supervision" and other operational reforms.

While Thomas acknowledged the allegations against the prison, she said she disagrees with the opinion that Tutwiler is "operating in a deliberately indifferent or unconstitutional manner."

"We will cooperate with the Department of Justice and continue our efforts to implement changes and recommendations with the goal of improving prison conditions and avoiding potential contested litigation."