Equal Justice Initiative Weighs In on Prison Reform
Governor Robert Bentley is urging sweeping prison reform across the state. Many of the state's prisons have been criticized for overcrowding, sexual abuse and deplorable conditions. Bryan Stevenson, executive director of Montgomery's Equal Justice Initiative said the state's alarming prison overcrowding issue stems from several main factors, he says the state adopted excessive sentences for low-level nonviolent crimes, passed three-strike laws and made drug abuse and addiction a crime problem instead of a healthcare problem. The state has a limited amount of time to fix its prison issues before the federal government is forced to intervene.
Alabama Department of Corrections officials are refuting a report by a human rights organization that criticizes health care in state prisons. Department Commissioner Kim Thomas said in a statement Wednesday the state is proud of the health care it offers inmates and that care provided in state institutions is better than what's available to most uninsured Alabamians. A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center said the state fails to give inmates a humane level of medical care and disabled prisoners face discrimination.
An Alabama congresswoman says she was misled about steps being taken to correct the falsification of records at Veterans Administration health centers in central Alabama. Republican Rep. Martha Roby announced over the weekend that the director of VA facilities in Montgomery and Tuskegee had told her some employees were terminated. She said she contacted Director James Talton on Tuesday and he told her there had been a misunderstanding about what he meant when he said the employees were "relieved of their duties." They were not terminated. VA statistics show the central Alabama facilities have an average wait time for new patients of 75 days. The facilities have announced several changes to improve waiting times, including opening more appointment slots and expanding clinic hours.
Three of Alabama's community colleges have new leaders. Community college Chancellor Mark Heinrich said the State Board of Education has approved the appointment of Andrea Mayfield as president of Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa. Heinrich said Dr. Helen McAlpine is becoming interim president of Gadsden State Community College and John Reutter III will serve as acting president of Drake.