By Conner Sheets, Associated Press
State Rep. Chris England, chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, spoke out about Alabama’s “broken” criminal justice system on Sunday, tweeting that it will take “more than new buildings to fix it.
In a long Twitter thread, England called for Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn to be fired, citing reports that 10 men have died in the state’s prisons this month.
“Under Dunn, mismanagement, lack of transparency, violence, corruption and death happen so often that it is has become normalized,” England tweeted. “For a system that the DOJ believes is worst than the death penalty, his continued employment is direct evidence that Alabama just doesn’t care.”
His statements comes as Gov. Kay Ivey, Dunn and other state leaders continue to insist that the construction of expensive new correctional facilities is necessary to reduce overcrowding, widespread violence against inmates and correctional officers, and other longstanding issues in Alabama’s prisons.
The DOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.
“What will it take for us to realize that Alabama’s criminal justice system is broken and it is going to take more than new buildings to fix it?” England tweeted Sunday afternoon. “We got federal lawsuits, corruption in [the Alabama Department of Corrections], people dying daily in our prisons and a pardons and paroles system that doesn’t work.”
The strongly worded statements by one of Alabama’s most influential Democratic leaders gives voice to criticism by many advocates, lawyers and experts who argue that new prisons won’t fix endemic problems that have plagued Alabama’s state prison system for years.
In April and May, three underwriters backed out of Ivey’s proposed plan to have private companies build three massive prisons in Alabama and charge the state millions in annual rent to house prisoners in them. Ivey said the plan was no longer on the table after a key deadline to close on the deal passed in June.
The Alabama Department of Corrections is being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly fostering an unconstitutional environment of violence and mistreatment in its prisons.
The DOC has faced a series of separate lawsuits led by legal advocacy groups in recent years alleging that the department has provided inadequate mental health treatment and medical care, among other shortfalls.
England also called for the removal of Leigh Gwathney, chair of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles.