MONTGOMERY (AP) — Alabama is one of several states that doesn't adequately protect female prisoners from sexual misconduct by prison staff and allows "the dangerous practice" of restraining pregnant inmates during their third trimester, according to a report released today by Amnesty International USA.
Amnesty said major improvements have been made to prison policies nationwide since 2001, when a similar report showed that Alabama and four other states did not have laws protecting women against sexual abuse by prison guards. Vermont is now the only state without such a law.
However, the new Amnesty survey of prison systems in all 50 states found that few states, including Alabama, provide adequate legal protection to incarcerated women who report allegations of sexual abuse by prison staff.
Prison officials, responding to the report, said the department's investigations into the sexual abuse of inmates comply with state law.
The Amnesty report also questioned the state for restraining women in their third trimester during transport or at the hospital. Alabama is one of six states that Amnesty activists will "combat" this year for not barring this practice, said Sheila Dauer, director of the domestic women's human rights program for Amnesty.
She added that the states "are not being singled out as the worst," but are a starting point for change.
In 2004, Alabama passed a statute that made it a felony for a corrections officer or prison employee to have sexual relations with anyone incarcerated at a prison or juvenile detention facility. The legislation was introduced after reports of sexual abuse at the Alabama Department of Youth Services' Chalkville campus.
Amnesty acknowledged other improvements to the Department of Correction's sexual misconduct policy, including staff training on the subject, restrictions on male guards in female lockups and medical help available to sexual abuse victims.