The expletive-laden video was a stark glimpse of the violence and chaos that corrections experts say is a relentless threat in overcrowded prisons like those in Alabama, where the nation’s most congested state corrections system houses more than 24,000 inmates in a network designed for 13,318. That uprising on Friday, as well as two others in Alabama’s prisons in a week, intensified questions about how this state, one of the nation’s poorest, should end an overcrowding crisis that has long shadowed governors and prison officials.
Alabama prisons have had strict sentencing laws for decades, resulting in a prison system buckling under the strain of overcrowding. Too many prisoners in too-small prisons raise tensions and make violence more likely, according to the Times report.
At the start of February, Gov. Robert Bentley called for tearing down Alabama's prisons and building four new ones, including the notoriously corrupt Tutwiler women's prison. Tutwiler was condemned by a strident federal report that called the environment "repressive and intimidating" and said inmates feared retaliation for rejecting sexual advances from prison staff.