By Mike Cason
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — The chairman of the Alabama Legislature’s prison oversight committee said meetings will begin next month with a national group to come up with a long-range plan to fix some of the state’s prison problems.
Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said he and other officials plan to meet separately with representatives of The Council of State Governments Justice Center on May 5. He said he expected the CSG Justice Center.
On May 6, Ward said CSG will meet with officials from the Alabama Law Institute, the Criminal Justice Information Center and the Alabama Sentencing Institute.
Gov. Robert Bentley announced last week that the CSG Justice Center, Pew Charitable Trusts and the Bureau of Justice Assistance would assist the state in a plan to improve its prisons, which are under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. DOJ sent Bentley a letter in January saying that it found conditions at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women to be unconstitutional because of what it said was a failure to protect inmates from sexual abuse by prison staff.
Prison officials said they don’t think conditions at the prison are unconstitutional.
In its letter, DOJ said it was expanding its investigation.
The Alabama Legislature passed a resolution creating a Task Force to work with The Council of State Governments on the prison problems.
Ward said the Task Force would hold its first meeting in mid-to-late May. He said he expected the CSG Justice Center to present some initial plans at that meeting after gathering information at the May 5 and 6 meetings.
Ward said CSG is expected to look at a wide range of issues, including sentencing reforms that could gradually reduce the prison population.
The governor’s office also announced that the state would hire The Moss Group, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, to assist with the prisons.