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Case Name United States v. Alabama PC-AL-0037
Docket / Court 2:20-cv-01971-JHE ( N.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
At the very end of the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Justice brought this statewide lawsuit against Alabama, alleging widespread unconstitutional conditions conditions in the state's men's prisons. The case was filed on December 9, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern ... read more >
At the very end of the Trump administration, the U.S. Department of Justice brought this statewide lawsuit against Alabama, alleging widespread unconstitutional conditions conditions in the state's men's prisons. The case was filed on December 9, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama (in Birmingham)..

On October 6, 2016, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had opened a statewide investigation into the conditions in Alabama’s prisons for men. According to theDOJ's press release, the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Northern, Middle and Southern Districts of Alabama would conduct the investigation. The team was to investigate whether prisoners were receiving adequate protection from physical harm and sexual abuse by other prisoners, and from excessive force and sexual abuse by corrections officers. The investigation was also to focus on whether the prisons provided sanitary, secure, and safe living conditions. The investigation was to be conducted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA)(42 U.S.C. §1997), which gives the department authority to investigate constitutional rights violations resulting from a “pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of such rights.”

The DOJ released reports on April 2, 2019, and July 23, 2020. The 2019 report highlighted overcrowding, understaffing, failure to protect inmates from “rampant violence,” failure to prevent illegal drugs from entering the prisons, and inadequate protection of prisoners from highly prevalent sexual abuse by other prisoners, which constituted facility conditions that violated the Constitution. The report also found that the evidence suggested that some ADOC officials were deliberately indifferent to the risk of harm. In addition to going over these problems in greater detail, the report suggested remedial measures to address these issues.

The 2020 report focused on the excessive use of force by corrections officers in ADOC, including chemical spray. The report found that excessive force was common and that there was a lack of accountability for the use of force in ADOC. The parties engaged in several rounds of negotiations to solve the issues identified by DOJ without litigation, but failed to reach a resolution of the defects the DOJ identified.

On December 9, 2020, the DOJ filed a this CRIPA lawsuit. The DOJ alleged ADOC had violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments by “failing to prevent prisoner-on-prisoner violence and sexual abuse . . . failing to protect prisoners from the use of excessive force by security staff, and . . . failing to provide safe conditions of confinement.”

The DOJ sought a declaratory judgement that Alabama had violated the Constitution, and to enjoin ADOC from engaging in the illegal actions, omissions, and practices DOJ had identified along with requiring ADOC to take remedial measures. After the Biden Administration's start, DOJ filed an amended complaint on May 19, 2021. The case remains ongoing.

Julie Singer - 04/13/2017
Samuel Poortenga - 03/15/2021
John Duffield - 07/02/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Affected Gender
Male
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Corrections
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Administrative segregation
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Assault/abuse by staff
Classification / placement
Conditions of confinement
Disciplinary procedures
Disciplinary segregation
Excessive force
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Grievance Procedures
Incident/accident reporting & investigations
Pepper/OC spray
Prison Rape Elimination Act
Protective custody
Restraints : physical
Sanitation / living conditions
Search policies
Sex offender regulation
Sex w/ staff; sexual harassment by staff
Sexual abuse by residents/inmates
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq.
Defendant(s) Alabama Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description U.S. Department of Justice - Civil Rights Division
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 12/09/2020
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Review of the Use of Monitors in Civil Settlement Agreements and Consent Decrees Involving State and Local Government Entities
U.S. Department of Justice
Date: 9/13/2021
By: Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assoc. AG Vanita Gupta (U.S. Department of Justice)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  An Analysis of CRIPA Findings Letters Issued to Jails for Constitutional Violations by the Department of Justice
Date: Apr. 15, 2016
By: Jeff Mellow, Bryce E. Peterson & Mijin Kim (John Jay College of Criminal Justice Faculty)
Citation: Am. J. Crim. Just. (April 2016)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
N.D. Ala.
03/02/2021
2:20-cv-01971-RDP
PC-AL-0037-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
not recorded
10/06/2016
Justice Department Announces Statewide Investigation into Conditions in Alabama’s Prisons for Men
PC-AL-0037-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
not recorded
04/02/2019
Investigation of Alabama's State Prisons for Men
PC-AL-0037-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
not recorded
07/23/2020
Investigation of Alabama's State Prisons for Men
PC-AL-0037-0004.pdf | External Link | Detail
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
N.D. Ala.
12/09/2020
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-AL-0037-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
N.D. Ala.
05/19/2021
Amended Complaint [ECF# 37]
PC-AL-0037-0005.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Proctor, R. David (N.D. Ala.) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Barr, William P. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0002
Chambers, William Russell Jr (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0002 | PC-AL-0037-0005 | PC-AL-0037-9000
Cheek, Jason R (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0002 | PC-AL-0037-0005 | PC-AL-0037-9000
Cosetello, Sean P (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0005
Costello, Sandra (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0005
Dean, Kerry Krentler (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0002 | PC-AL-0037-0005 | PC-AL-0037-9000
Donnelly, Matthew J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0005
Dreiband, Eric S. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0002 | PC-AL-0037-9000
Eppsteiner, George E (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0005 | PC-AL-0037-9000
Fox, Deena (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0002 | PC-AL-0037-0005 | PC-AL-0037-9000
Franklin, Louis V. (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0002
Garland, Merrick B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0005
Harris, Curtis (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0005 | PC-AL-0037-9000
Karlan, Pamela S (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0005
Krishna, Praveen (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-9000
Moore, Richard W. (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0002
Rosenbaum, Steven H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0002 | PC-AL-0037-0005 | PC-AL-0037-9000
Ward, Carla (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0002 | PC-AL-0037-0005 | PC-AL-0037-9000
Woodke, Lane H. (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-0002 | PC-AL-0037-0005 | PC-AL-0037-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Lunsford, William R. (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-9000
Reeves, Matthew (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-9000
Rogers, Stephen C. (Alabama) show/hide docs
PC-AL-0037-9000

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