Alabama's prison system is notoriously flush with prisoners and short on cash. And the Department of Corrections has notoriously used these circumstances as excuses to justify what cannot be justified.
A great case in point: Donaldson Correctional Facility's illegal dumping of sewage in west Jefferson County waterways.
Donaldson has been violating its sewage-discharge limits for years, to the detriment of the Black Warrior River, its tributaries and the people who live near them.
The prison is allowed to discharge 270,000 gallons of sewage a day into Big Branch Creek, which runs into the Black Warrior. But on some days, the discharge has been as much as 990,000 gallons a day - more than 3½ times the legal limit.
Prison officials say the violations are the result of having too many inmates - 1,590 of them in a prison built for 990 - and not enough money to overhaul the sewage system. That may explain how the problem began. But it doesn't explain why the problem continues today.