Op-Ed by Matt Simpson
“Lack of institutional control.”
Growing up as a sports fan in Alabama, and even when I attended the University of Alabama, I became familiar with that phrase as the NCAA brought down sanctions on our beloved athletic programs.
Our athletics programs should hold themselves to higher standards, the champion level programs we’ve come to expect in our state, whether you say “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle.”
Shouldn’t we hold the officials in charge of running and managing Alabama’s prison systems to at least a modicum of the same standards?
When you look at the Department of Justice report released last week detailing the continued horrendous abuses within our state’s prison system, there is no way that you can read the horrors outlined there and not think there’s a lack of institutional control that starts at the very top.
When a prisoner handcuffed to a bed is beaten with a baton while an officer yells “I am the reaper of death, now say my name!”, there is a lack of institutional control.
When an inmate is punched in the face for simply sticking their tongue out, there is a lack of institutional control.
When the officials in charge of our prison system have known about these violations for years and know they are under investigation from the federal government and the abuses still continue to happen, there is a lack of institutional control.
Our prison guards, corrections officers and staff are overworked, underpaid and understaffed, with some of our prisons remaining at half of their full hiring capacity – despite the fact that last year, the Legislature appropriated more than enough money to fill those positions and create new ones to help secure and make safer our correctional institutions. Those positions, both current and new, have not been filled, so our officers and staff at these prisons continue to not get the support they need and deserve due to the inaction of our Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner.
Not using the ample resources and funding that have been given to you – again, it’s a clear lack of institutional control by the Alabama Department of Corrections’ leadership and something has to change.
We need new leadership who is actually willing to address these problems head-on and make the changes necessary to fix these problems.
We need new leadership who is willing to work with the Legislature and not try to do things behind the scenes of behind closed doors. The entire nation is watching how we handle this, and we need to be as open, as honest and as transparent as we possibly can be.
Our Department of Corrections is not being run in a manner that the people of Alabama should accept, and it is past time to make a change there.
Lack of institutional control – we would not allow and have not tolerated it from a football coach, and we certainly don’t need to continue to tolerate it from appointed government officials who should be working for the people.
Rep. Matt Simpson (R- Daphne) represents House District 96, which includes portions of Mobile and Baldwin counties, in the Alabama House of Representatives.