ADOC responds to allegations of sexual violence at Ala. prison

Guard tower at Tutwiler Prison for Women.
Guard tower at Tutwiler Prison for Women.

The Alabama Department of Corrections has issued a statement in response to the complaint filed by the Equal Justice Initiative which alleges a "widespread pattern" of officer-on-inmate sexual violence at the Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka.

EJI says in interviews with more than 50 women incarcerated at the prison, a pattern of "frequent and severe officer-on-inmate sexual violence" is occurring.

Read ADOC's response to the allegations below:

MONTGOMERY- The Alabama Department of Corrections is aware of the complaint by the Equal Justice Initiative, requesting the Department of Justice investigate alleged custodial sexual misconduct at its Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.

The ADOC maintains a policy of zero-tolerance for inmate sexual offenses and custodial sexual misconduct. Departmental practices and procedures are in place to help identify, monitor, and track alleged sexual assaults and sexual misconduct; to maintain statistics ensuring compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA); and to take appropriate actions against employees found in violation. There are multiple ways for complaints of custodial sexual misconduct to be made, including the use of a toll free PREA hotline, or writing or talking to assigned PREA staff within each facility. When the Department is made aware of alleged sexual misconduct, including incidents involving a staff member and inmate, an investigation is immediately begun. Upon a finding of wrongdoing, personnel action - including dismissal from employment – is taken against the employee. In addition, in each case the matter is referred to the local district attorney for criminal prosecution.

"This is a matter of grave concern to me. Sexual misconduct of any kind, including custodial sexual misconduct, is not tolerated by this Department," said Commissioner Kim Thomas. "From the beginning of my watch, I have made it very clear to my staff that custodial sexual misconduct will not be tolerated and is an especially egregious offense to me. We take every action possible to prevent it from happening and if it does, we undertake prompt corrective employee discipline and pursue criminal prosecution where applicable."

The ADOC is committed to improving to improve security and providing for the safety of inmates and officers at Tutwiler, as well as at all other ADOC facilities statewide. The Department has previously sought third party assistance from the National Institute of Corrections regarding prisoner safety and trains its employees on issues relating to the PREA standards. We will continuously analyze every viable option to make our prisons safer. The Department prides itself on its compliance with PREA Standards, as established by the Department of Justice, and the practices it has implemented not only prevent sexual abuse but also to detect and respond to it when it occurs.