TDCJ’s Offender Grievance Program

TDCJSealFrom: Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Introduction
An effective grievance program extends far beyond the staff of the grievance department. It involves an ongoing commitment by both staff and offenders at every facility to solve problems. The grievance program also provides a variety of supportive and protective functions by giving the offender an alternative to confrontation and an outlet for frustration and aggression. The program offers the offender a less formal alternative to litigation, thus saving taxpayers the cost of defending the agency in court. Grievances, when taken collectively, provide a wealth of insight into the daily operations of each unit that is helpful in maintaining a safe and secure environment for staff and offenders.

The current offender grievance process facilitates problem resolution at two distinct administrative levels. The first, commonly referred to as Step 1, allows the Warden to identify and resolve issues at the unit level. The second level, known as Step 2, affords an offender the opportunity to appeal the Warden’s decision. Step 2 grievances are sent off the unit to the Central Grievance Office in Huntsville, Texas for
review. Once the two-step process has been completed, the offender’s administrative remedies within TDCJ have been exhausted.

During Fiscal Year 2012 Texas offenders located in TDCJ units across the state filed a combined 216,258 Step 1 and Step 2 grievances, which represents an increase from the previous fiscal year. Approximately 26% of all Step 1 grievances were appealed to the second step, indicating that effective problem resolution is occurring at the unit level.

Grievable Issues
√ TDCJ policies and procedures
√ Actions of an employee or another offender
√ Harassment and/or retaliation for use of the
grievance procedure or access to courts
√ Loss or damage of pers
onal property by TDCJ
√ Basic care (things that TDCJ has control over)

Non-Grievable Issues
x State or Federal Laws
x Parole decisions
x Time-served credit disputes
x Matters for which other formal appeal
mechanisms exist
x Any matter beyond the control of the Agency

Remedies which are available through the Grievance Procedures
√ Restitution of property, either monetary or
compensatory;
√ Change of policy, procedures, rule, or practice;
√ Corrections of records;
√ Other relief, as appropriate

Remedies which are not available through the Grievance Procedure
x Requests for disciplinary
action against employees.
x Requests for consequential or punitive damages

View/Download the Full pdf. 

WORLD PRISON POPULATION MAP (PER 100,000)

PRISON POP RATES

PRISON POP RATES

Posted in Abuse, Grievances, Misconduct, TDCJ, Texas | 1 Comment

* Have a loved one in Jail, Prison or Immigration Detention Center or Youth Corrections center ????

National Corrections Oversight Coalition

Reg’d OJP/DOJ®

INTELLIGENCE FOR CORRECTIONS™

NOTICE : Inquiries, Questions, Comments, Corrections Consulting Advisories & Recommendations, please contact us at : Jimmyferguson86@gmail.com or 409.356.4148 

 

We desperately need your help! It takes “time, money & hard work” to maintain and keep a organization in compliance with local, state & federal law, regulations and keep materials such as paper, ink & stamps, without these materials we cannot maintain our “EXCEPTIONAL” TRACK RECORD we cant expose, CORRUPTION, CONSPIRACIES or file FORMAL COMPLAINTS we can’t respond to offender complaints and let them know the situation is under investigation, we have already filed numerous complaints by e-mail. Please see: (Our Victories & Accomplishments 2007-2014) & From a dime a dozen to priceless, where we were mentioned in Steve Mizeras biography.

 PLEASE GIVE TO A VERY         WORTHY CAUSE, BECAUSE        WE DON’T PLAY GAMES              WITH PEOPLES LIVES!               

                                   I.                                       

 Do you have a loved one in Jail, Prison or in a Immigration Detention Center, Youth Detention Facility??? or Correctional institute that has the authority to detain individuals. Have they been abused, assaulted, beaten, raped or even attempted to be murdered or murdered,???

{Is your loved one in a “Security Threat Group”  or “Gang”and wants out ,but is, (AFRAID.??}

Did you also know that the Federal Government is & has labeled these “Gangs” as “Homegrown Terrorist” under The Revised Patriot Act & they can & will be held in custody indefinitely????

If you have answered ” YES” to any of the questions listed above,

Please “DO NOT” hesitate to contact our offices at (409.356.4148) State that you would like to file a complaint or you may File a offender letter complaint by e-mail to the Founder/Executive Director’s Office  (jimmyferguson86@gmail.com) or if you choose you can send the complaint by mail to: Attention Founder/Executive Director s Office Jim W. Ferguson II  Central Headquarter’s 1428 23rd St. Ave. N. Suite # 2 Galveston Texas 77550

 II.

( BE ADVISED ): PLEASE READ THE RULES & REGULATIONS / MEMBERSHIP FEES ! 

                                                                                                                                                                              

……….(NOTICE)………..

YOU MUST BE A MEMBER OF NCOC TO RECIEVE ASSITANCE FROM THIS ORGANIZATION.. ((NO EXCEPTIONS))

  • If you are ever in the area of Galveston, Texas and you would love to see the inner workings of a organization or you would like to have coffee with our Founder/Executive Director or a member of our staff you can hit us up (call) and and get a confirmation (please allow (1) day prior notice) and we’ll coffee up and talk about what is going on in your world.
  • NCOC strives to maintain EXCELLENCE and be on the forefront of advocacy and protection on behalf of offenders confined in facilities across the United States.

   We are a very concerned group of organizations that is very concerned about the well-being of offenders . We are Offender Families, Friends, Concerned Citizens, we are also Former Prisoners, Veterans, Former Guards/Officers,Former Gang Members, Former Officials, Paralegals,/Legal Assistants, Producers, Investigating Journalists, Civil Rights Activists & Mothers, Fathers. Our primary objective is the offenders (Safety, Security & Their Mental Well being) We only want a even the balance in the playing field in Corrections. 

  •  IN OTHER WORDS TWO CAN PLAY THIS GAME.!!!,
  • BECAUSE WE HAVE BEEN THERE !!

III.

  • We are very aggressive, dedicated & above all else Loyal.  We are (GENERATION X ) We will always question our government , We “weekly” file FOIA Freedom of Information Act Requests, from Courts , Police Agencies, Federal Agencies , United Nations  & Social/Civil Organizations,  We monitor our government & its branches .
  • As a paralegal/legal assistant I understand the law very well and specialize in “only”civil law. I know for fact from my research in caselaw & legal education that all offenders have personal unaliebable Constitutional Rights which is to be    
  • “free” from harm  & also from future harm. See:(Hellings v. McKinney 509 U.S. 25,33 (1993) That is the privilege we as Americans have even if you are imprisoned, confined, detained or institutionalized.
  •  IV.          
  •  I continually inform NCOC staff about the abuse in jail & prison in our meetings. All “New” approved members  are required to take (1) JDI Webinar a month.
  •  The issue we face everyday, is when we read a offender letter that has a young man or woman being sexually assaulted  or beaten it “infuriates” us and motivates us to push & smash even harder!!
  • We DO NOT tolerate “predators”  these are the officers/officials who manipulate & prey on youngsters or children in jail or prison.
  • NCOC has put numerous officials/officers on probation/administrative

  • leave,terminated, &/or arrested/criminally charged. We have forced High Ranking officials to retire or be charged with a misdemeanor/felony crime.
  •  WE HAVE A “PROVEN” TRACK RECORD!!

 (1) NOTE: When officials are reprimanded &/or placed on probation and do not successfully complete the given disciplinary offenses,

The violators retirement/savings benefits or pension are jeopardized by their illegal actions.When a offender files a Civil Rights, “STATE OR FEDERAL LAWSUIT” against a defendant namely the Warden, Unit Staff (unit employees) The plaintiff (offender) will expose the administrations civil or criminal violations. At the end of the court hearing, the Judge will issue a “Final Judgement”, Please see:  Garnishment of Wages, Blacks Law Dictionary 2014 8th Edition

        

 V.

  OUR.

 Victories & Accomplishments

2007- to Present 2014     96% Effective

                              Revised 1/5/14 (11:43) am. / 7 pm Reviewed 412 Files / Reviewed 415 Files / Revised 2/23/14

Revised. 5/1 /14  6:12 pm

                              Reviewed ALL Files (315) 9/2/14 (42) Legal Files Approximate Time 3 Hrs. 45 mins

Revision 9/5/14 5-7 am,  Reviewed Unit/Complaint & Compliance Files (96) 4 pm to 7 pm, Reviewed 145 files (12) Administrative Files  9/25/14  9am-11am

 

WE HAVE EYES & EARS EVERWHERE)

   (“WE ARE WATCHING YOU”!!)

Specific “NAMED”officers/officials were escorted to the wardens office) of a STATE or FEDERAL INSTITUTION & WAS CRIMINALLY CHARGED. The statistics were gathered through “Internal Investigations,Record/Book Keeping & FOIA” requests written to government  agencies.

********************************

REVISED 8/21/14 2:45 PM

 NCOC has initiated &/or investigated (281) general complaints

(4)Senior Wardens were placed under Investigation due to stealing State Property.)

(167) grievances,medical complaints

(44) (CRIPA/Civil Rights of institutionalized Persons Act Violations

(1) Obstruction of Justice

(74) LIDs life in danger

(48) Sexual Assaults,{referred to (PREA) legislation Prison Rape Elimination Act/The Commission/JDI Just Detention International}

(11) Gang Wars

(15) Race Riots

(39) Excessive use of unnecessary use of force

(4)Attempted Murders (9) Capital Murders

(13) Deaths in Custody

(21) Officer Assault on a Inmate with a attempt to degrade or injure

(23)Simple Battery/Assaults

(16) Aggravated Assault with intent to Injure or do bodily harm 

(17) Conspiracies exposed on numerous facilities in the United States, Namely: TEXAS/CALIFORNIA/FLORIDA

(167)Denial of Medical Treatment

(119) Denial of Medications

(2) Medical Reprieves released due to Terminal Illness.

NCOC Records indicate (34) officers were put on Administrative Leave due to Pending Investigation (13 ) Placed on Probation, (8)Demoted , (12)Terminated,(5) Escorted off the facility to be arrested/terminated.

****Investigating since 2007****

Feel the Heat!!”

(14) Title II Violations Medical Disability Complaints To United States Department of Justice (Disability Rights Section) (Jeanine Wordon Deputy Chief Disability Right Section/Civil Right Section. (2007-2014)

On March 10 2010 the DOJ  published a advanced Notice of the Proposed Rulemaking Process seeking public comment on all the commissions proposed standards as well as specific questions asked by the DOJ . It is publically accessiable at http://www.regulations.gov, Docket ID No. DOJ-OAG -2010-0001.(Office of the Attorney General) The U.S.DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE posted the Founders/Executive Directors letter  & was considered during the commissions rulemaking process.

Recorded in (www.regulations. gov)

VI.

     Officials/Officers cannot  (Deliberate Indifferance) & will not ignore us or make us goes away.We will not run (We can do it the easy way or hard way the choice is (YOURS) we have all the time in the world, WE HAVE THE UNITED STATES FEDERAL GOVERNMENT &/ or MEDIA at our disposal.

We do not care about money (although we need it to pursue your complaints), you cannot bribe us or manipulate us or give us gifts to ignore the situation where a human being is concerned. We are on a very strict time frame with a “Very Important Mission” to secure the safety & security of offenders & pay retribution(“legally”) to corrupt officials/officers. We EXPOSE CORRUPTION & COVER-UPs, we will write articles ABOUT THE OFFICER/OFFICIAL WHO WAS INVOLVED, AIR IT ON KPFT 90.1 ,PUT IT ON THE INTERNET TO GO VIRAL !!

  WE WILL MAKE IT GO VIRAL !!!!

(That’s a Promise)

WE DO NOT TOLERATE ABUSE OF OFFENDERS FOR ANY REASON!!!!!!,


VII. 

 

   (INFORMATION & GUIDANCE)

(WATCHDOGS) 

{ HOW TO FILE A COMPLAINT WITH NCOC }

(2.) All correspondence are REQUIRED to state the WHO,WHAT,WHEN,WHERE,HOW & WHY 

  (Who)  was is it that violated your “Protected Constitutional Rights” or assaulted you? (IT MUST BE SERIOUS)

  (What)  happened please describe in detail, what happened make sure you get names, dates, times, witness,  documentation, grievences, court papers, disciplinary papers, or anything relevent to your complaint/case.

 (When) It Happened, make sure you note what time it was, what day it was, what year , any past references, or any references of dates you think could help in your complaint/case

 (Where)  it happened, was you in your cell, in the dayroom , chow hall or officers dining hall ,Offender dining room (chow hall) ,outside recreation, we must have the location in the event that it may have been recorded /videotaped and we may be able to assist in the prosecution.

 (How) did it happened give the situations detail as much as possible, Do Not assume YOU MUST HAVE FACTS.!!(Hearsay is inadmissible)

 (Why)  did it happen, give your best reasoning, if you believe strongly that a certain official / offender was involved but not caught or have reason to believe in another matter, please explain in detail

VIII. 

  ( Rules & Regulations)

(1.) All offenders confined in a institution/facility is required to “EXHAUSTION OF ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES ” which is the unit grievence procedure before filing a formal complaint with NCOC, 

(2.) All complaints /correspondence are REQUIRED to state the WHO,WHAT,WHEN,WHERE,HOW & WHY 

(3.)All complaints must be typed or written legibly

(4.)Any correspondence received that does not meet these requirements or written standards will be returned to correct, you may then re-submit the information &/or complaint.

(5.)All correspondence /information recieved by NCOC Central Headqaurters/KPFT 90.1 becomes the property of NCOC & KPFT 90.1 or that home &/or office in the United States.

(6.)  (All) complaints/correspondence received must state the senders full name, address, number, cell block , housing area.

(7) All new approved members are required to take (1) JDI webinar a month.

(8) All complaints filed by family members must have the offenders original signature.

(9) All medical complaints are required to have the current HIPPA form sighned & placed in the offenders medical file. (Must be filed every 6 months/ Contact Unit Medical Department)

(10) ALL staff/members will act professionally when conducting investigations or  representing NCOC.

(11) NCOC staff/members are required to commit to a minimum of 2 hours a day.

(12) All staff/members are prohibited from giving any legal advice to clients.

(13) NCOC staff are prohibited from using profanity when conversing with officials/officers, conducting investigations.

(14) All staff members are to be courteous, respectful and are prohibited from using inappropriate language that could poorly reflect on the organization as a whole.

(15) All staff/members are required to maintain a monthly membership of $5 a month or $65 a year (includes processing fees)

(16) All staff members are prohibited from using discriminatory language/actions against staff members, offenders & The Public.

Effective 10/21/14

*(17) Investigations last from 30-45-60 days, In the event it is more serious and may require a different approach or review by the Board of Director’s, Law Enforcement  or Federal Official. Additional time will be created for accrucacy.

 ***********  NOTICE ************

Prison Rape Elimination Act has created the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission is charged with addressing national standards on sexual assault/rape which is a violation of the 8th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States & requires Jails, Prisons , Immigration, Juvenile Detention Facilities, (PUBLIC & PRIVATE) to adopt a “ZERO TOLERANCE” approach to this form of abuse, this has created a review panel which will hold annual public hearings disclosing the worst/best unit facilities which are in compliance, failure to comply with federal law will result in a significant loss of federal funding. Additionally conflicting testimony against the directors of the prison facility and introducing conflicting evidence may result in the denial of facilities federal funding. This is where NCOC intervenes, we collect Data/Information on sexual Assaults and present

this information with supporting evidence to the PREA Commission. The Founder/Executive Director Jim W. Ferguson II will be testifying in front of the Commission /U.S. Congress in the near future. Specific dates for Congressional Testimony are unavailable at this time.

**(WE ARE NOT LAWYERS) ALL STAFF/NCOC MEMBERS ARE PROHIBITED FROM GIVING LEGAL ADVICE TO CLIENTS.!! 

********(DISCLAIMER)********

Specific pages of this website is FEDERALLY PROTECTED under the Copyright & Trademark Laws/Rights. A majority of the information contained herein is the property of the Founder/Executive Director Jim W. Ferguson II, The opinions, reviews, records, , statistics, fact finding investigations/ records or any other data or information is strictly for “Information, Advisory & Consultation Purposes Only”. NCOC is not responsible for any incorrect, incomplete information. NCOC does not take any responsibility for violations of user/reviews of this site.

NCOC STRICTLY REVIEWS ALL /INFORMATION/DATA FOR INACCURACIES 

EFFECTIVE  3/18/94 REVISED Recorded use 1/1/14

Information contained herein constitutes as the fair use of any copyrighted material; as provided by Section 107 of the The United States Copyright Laws in accordance with title 17 U.S.C Sec. § 107.

Due to confidentiality we respectfully request that you contact the Founder/Executive Director for use of specific posted material.       ThankYou !

 

{THE OPINIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS OR CONSULTATIONS “DO NOT” REFLECT ON THE OFFICIAL POSITION OF THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE OR ITS AGENCIES, PROGRAMS OR ITS POLICIES.}

                   

                                                                                      

                                                                  

           National Corrections Oversight Coalition

             Reg’d OJP/DOJ®

          INTELLIGENCE FOR CORRECTIONS™  

                                                   *NCOC # 865-754-655*                                             

                                All RIGHTS RESERVED                           

       IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

                     COPYRIGHT  © 2015    Jim W. Ferguson II                   

                                                             
 
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American Correctional Officer Intelligence Network – Home

American Correctional Officer Intelligence Network – Home.

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APPA ::: Projects

APPA ::: Projects.When the offender on supervision is the victim of violence domestic abuse

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APPA ::: Online Training

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Build Motivation

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Investigations and community involvement

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Prisons aren’t typically the stuff of dinner party conversations or light summer reading. Yet when AL.com and The David Mathews Center for Civic Life partnered last year to engage Alabama about the problems facing Alabama’s prison system, hundreds of people responded, attending informational meetings and deliberative forums across the state.

The number of voices climbs into the thousands who you consider the people who respond to calls to share their insights with AL.com and its partners in the Alabama Investigative Journalism Lab — whether that be detailing their experiences with the prison system or offering suggestions for reforming it.

The community’s involvement and commitment has drawn notice from regional and national journalism associations. And it is undoubtedly a factor in the progress that state officials have made toward system transformation and reform.

Many key moments have brought the state to the place that it can now consider funding for improvements and reforms it has already endorsed.

The problem blows up

On Jan. 17, 2014, the Department of Justice issues a report describing grim conditions at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women. Among the abuse, it tells of prison staff members raping and fondling inmates, and of officials failing to investigate inmate allegations, or stifling them. “The women at Tutwiler universally fear for their safety,” the report states. The Justice Department says the inmate stories are well-corroborated, even by paternity tests. Corrections system leaders say that the findings are off-base and unverified.

Lawmakers on their heels

The Justice Department report sets off alarm bells at the Legislature.  “We all know there is an issue with the prisons. There is overcrowding. Something has to be done,” says Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. “Hopefully, this DOJ report will really wake everybody up,” says state Sen. Cam Ward. Earlier, he has warned: “We’re dealing with a box of dynamite in our prison system.”

Citizens shape the story as AL.com investigates

AL.com launches a collaborative effort with the Center for Investigative Reporting and public radio that highlights audience engagement and in-depth reporting on significant issues facing the state. The culture of abuse and lack of accountability in Alabama prisons is the initial focus of the Alabama Investigative Journalism Lab, which aims to involve readers in the reporting process and examine their experiences to help guide the investigation.

Ex-inmates speak out

In interviews with AL.com, former Tutwiler inmates begin to share their stories of life behind the walls. “It’s not meant to be the Hilton. But you should still be able to not have to take a freezing cold shower in the dead of winter, still be able to have more than one blanket or two blankets, be able to eat something besides food that’s not even fit to make dog food out of,” says Nicole Brooks, a one-time nurse who’d served time in 2006-07 after being linked to a robbery.

Rising national scorn

In March, The New York Times decries conditions at Tutwiler, writing “there are few places worse.” Cosmopolitan weighs in, calling Tutwiler horrific. In early spring, about 13,000 people sign a petition calling for prosecution of those involved in sexual abuse at Tutwiler.

Bentley gets involved

On March 6, Gov. Robert Bentley tours Tutwiler and announces plans to hire the well-regarded Moss Group consultants to analyze the prison and recommend a plan of action. Four days later, he addresses the state in a news column, writing “I want Alabamians to know that custodial misconduct in our correctional facilities will not be tolerated, especially when it comes to female inmates.” He explains that new funding will open the way for the installation of a Tutwiler camera system and the hiring of 100 security officers systemwide. He pledges that the state will recruit more female officers at Tutwiler.

Ex-guards open up

Former prison security officers, contacted by AL.com, begin to tell of their experiences. Herman Boleware, who worked at Tutwiler, spent five days in jail himself for assaulting an inmate. He tells AL.com, in a story published March 25, that prison staffers were cruel “from the top on down.”  He says, “As far as the conditions, it’s just like you’re locked up, too.”  Inmates, he says, “are really treated like animals.”

‘Culture of abuse’

In April, former Tutwiler psychologist Dr. Larry Wood weighs in: “The facility is archaic and overcrowded, and a pattern of mismanagement and abuse dates back for decades. … Tutwiler represents a culture of abuse that will be difficult to turn around.” Meanwhile, a new survey shows that the mentally ill population of the state’s prisons leaped from 5 percent in 1971 to 20 percent in 2007. Meanwhile, says the survey sponsor, the nationally known Treatment Advocacy Center,  Alabama is “among the states spending the least on public psychiatric treatment programs.”

DOC’s new tone

“I’ve told the Legislature the past two years that just getting by is not good enough,” Corrections Commission Kim Thomas says in early June. He adds, “It’s satisfying finally to see that people are discussing these problems and the public is concerned about them.” He says, “If you want to incarcerate people, there is a cost associated with it.” Days later, Gov. Robert Bentley’s office says that he is calling in the services of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, a national program that helps states improve their criminal justice systems. This is a program offered by the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

Claims of cruelty

The Southern Poverty Law Center issues a June report, laden with jarring anecdotes, maintaining that medical care in Alabama prisons is cruel and unconstitutional. The report declares that the corrections system is “deliberately indifferent to the serious medical needs of the prisoners in its custody.” The Department of Corrections rejects the grisly claims. Kim Thomas, the corrections commissioner, says the agency’s level of care is “better than health care given to most uninsured Alabamians.” The SPLC, however, soon files a lawsuit

Task force gathers

At a first meeting of the state’s new Prison Reform Task Force, in June, its members learn that Alabama’s prisons, holding slightly more than 25,000 inmates, are at 190 percent of their designed capacity. “There’s no way you can build your way out, but you can’t expect to solve this problem without new construction,” says Sen. Cam Ward, who had warned in January that prisons were “a box of dynamite.” He is serving as task force chairman.

Digging into wardens’ pasts

An AL.com analysis of hundreds of personnel documents shows that the state’s prison wardens can flout the rules, take a slap on the wrist, return to work or transfer to other prisons, according to its story published in June. Records show that some wardens were promoted to their positions even after serving suspensions as lower-ranking officers for beating inmates or covering up beatings.

Ward takes center stage 

On July 15, state Sen. Cam Ward tells a subcommittee of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that Alabama has a “failed corrections system.” He says, “Locking them up and throwing away the key is not the solution to our problem.” Next, in an August interview with NPR, Ward says, “You’d have to be blind — whether you’re politically right or politically left — to not recognize that 192 percent capacity in your prison facilities is a problem. There’s just no other way around it.”

Progress and setbacks

In August, the Department of Corrections starts a new training program to help recruit more women. Trainees are even allowed to go home each day during the 12-week session, to take care of families or other obligations. But state health officials announce that the prisons are dealing with a tuberculosis outbreak.

Allegations against doctors

Having sexual contact with patients, exchanging painkillers for oral sex, and impersonating another doctor in an attempt to a fill a phony prescription at a pharmacy: These are some of the allegations that the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners leveled against two doctors who now treat Alabama’s inmates. The findings by AL.com are revealed in a story published in September. In fact, the two doctors were previously barred from practicing medicine in the state for the infractions, records show.

Toilet paper, shower doors

In September, Deputy Corrections Commissioner Wendy Williams says that the prison system is changing its rules so that female inmates receive different clothing than male inmates. Also, feminine hygiene products and toilet paper will be available for all women in bathrooms, rather than being issued individually. That same month, she says that all bathrooms at Tutwiler now have shower doors, toilet partitions and privacy curtains. Also, she says, more than 300 cameras now scan the prison.

Hundreds attend meetings to call for change

In November, in Auburn, AL.com hosts its first public forum on prison reform. Others will soon follow in Huntsville, Mobile and Birmingham. And people speak out. “Soon there’ll be more people in prisons than there are out here working,” says Cathi Adams, whose son is in prison. “We need to stop thinking of justice as revenge,” said Carol Daron, retired Auburn University faculty member.

New leadership required

In December, AL.com calls for new leadership in Alabama’s prison system and appeals to the state legislature to adopt reforms before the federal government intervenes. The leadership must come from outside the current system, as the tenure of Kim Thomas, who rose through the ranks to lead the Department of Corrections, failed to bring about the needed transformation.

Fixing this is hard, but leaving it alone gets expensive

An AL.com analysis reveals that Alabama spent more than $1.86 million on private law firms to fight lawsuits filed against the state prison system since 2011. One of the highest-profile cases was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union over the state’s practice of segregating HIV-positive inmates. After a federal judge rules in its favor, the ACLU initially asks for $2.4 million in legal fees, then settles for $1.3 million plus an hourly rate to cover prison visits. As part of another legal agreement, the state agrees to change the way it distributes razors to inmates. Attorneys had accused the state of giving razor blades to inmates who were known to be suicidal or mentally ill.

State finds a new leader, sends wardens to new posts

In late January, Gov. Bentley confirms the resignation of Commissioner Kim Thomas and taps an Air Force colonel to take over the prison system. Col. Jefferson Dunn is an Alabama native who has served in various education and command staff capacities during a 28-year military career. Dunn takes the reins in March and moves quickly to lobby Alabama legislators to adopt a package of reforms. In February, the state moves 10 Alabama wardens — some that have come under outside scrutiny for allegedly violent conditions — to new assignments within the system.

The more things change, the more some stay the same

In February, the state announces that it will retain its prison health care provider through 2017. That decision comes despite a lawsuit filed by two groups representing inmates who claim that DOC’s failure to provide adequate medical care, mental health care and accommodations for the disabled violates the constitution and federal law.  February also sees another Alabama prison inmate die violently inside prison walls, with a fellow inmate accused in the stabbing death. Two more inmates will die in separate April incidents. A prison officer is assaulted by an inmate in an April incident that sparks a riot that left 15 inmates in need of some sort of medical treatment.

“Significant hurdles” remain

The Council of State Governments briefs the state’s prison reform task force on its findings, laying out a plan that calls for leaving the state’s most dangerous criminals behind bars while adding resources to improve supervision and treatment of offenders in communities statewide. CSG research manager Andrew Barbee warns that Alabama “has significant hurdles in front of it … there are such long-lasting ramifications associated with workforces that have been overworked and overloaded for years, and a lot of entrenched ways of doing business.”

The legislature adopts reform proposals

Measures including new prison facilities, more community supervision, treatment and diversion options, and a change in how Alabama sentences some felony offenders are part of a plan approved by the prison reform task force and introduced by Sen. Cam Ward as Alabama’s legislature opens its 2015 session. The plan promises to reduce Alabama’s prison population from 26,000 to about 21,500 over a five-year period and reduce overcrowding from its current 195 percent of designed capacity to 138 percent. The price tag for reform is estimated at $25 million in new money annually, plus $60 million over five years aimed at facility construction. It takes two months of legislative wrangling,  but Ward and supporters steer the bill to final approval and see it signed by Gov. Bentley on May 21.

Where’s the money?

The state announces on May 28 an agreement with the Department of Justice that promises to address issues at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, keeping the federal government from intervention in Alabama’s system. But that agreement is threatened and the prison reform plan adopted by the Legislature put on hold as the Legislature adjourns without securing a General Fund budget for 2016. Gov. Robert Bentley vetoes the budget bill sent to him as the session ends, one that  would have cut prison funding from current levels and, officials say, caused the closure of two major facilities.

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