Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) knows his state has a serious prison problem, but he had some harsh words for reform groups suing the state over alleged shortcomings in providing inmates health care, Alabama Media Group reported.
“You all are crazy to sue us,” he told an audience Monday at the state’s annual Alabama Sheriffs Association convention. “What good does it do to sue us?”
Last month, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP) filed a lawsuit against the state for discriminatory and dangerous inmate health care policies, including failure to treat hepatitis C cases and serious wounds, placing inmates under “do not resuscitate” or “allow natural death” orders without their knowledge and keeping disabled inmates segregated and deprived of accommodations, the lawsuit alleges.
Bentley, Alabama Media Group reported, said he wants to solve these problems and address the overarching issue of prison overcrowding but believes such lawsuits command time and money that could be spent creating solutions, namely cutting back on long sentences and altering the Habitual Felony Offender Act that cracks down on repeat offenders -- two contributing factors to Alabama having the third highest imprisonment rate in the nation.
But suing the state to achieve that might not be so “crazy.” In 2011, the Supreme Court mandated California reduce its prison overcrowding when it ruled in favor of inmates and advocate groups who sued the state over inadequate prison health care services. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has until February 2016 to meet federal requirements.
“We, too, are disappointed that we needed to take this step in filing this lawsuit,” SPLC attorney Maria Morris told Alabama Media Group in response to Bentley’s statements. "Our clients have been needlessly dying and suffering."