State asks for more time on Tutwiler plan

 Officials want until Feb. 21 to draft proposal to alleviate crowding 

02/05/03, The Birmingham News

News staff writer

MONTGOMERY State officials asked for more time Tuesday to draft a plan to defuse what a federal judge in
December called the "ticking time bomb" of Tutwiler
Prison for Women. 

Lawyers for Gov. Bob Riley, Attorney General Bill
Pryor and the state Department of Corrections asked
U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson to give the state
until Feb. 21 instead of a previously set Friday deadline to file a plan to eliminate unconstitutional conditions at Tutwiler. 

"The governor has already designated a task force to
investigate such remedies and alternatives, and to
recommend how such alternatives could be utilized most
effectively to ameliorate the concerns identified by the court," state lawyers told Thompson. 

Thompson ruled on Dec. 2 that Tutwiler, built in 1942
to house 365 inmates but now containing more than
1,000, is dangerously crowded and understaffed. He
first gave the state until Dec. 30, then until Friday to file a plan to solve Tutwiler's problems. 

Nabers heads group: 

David Azbell, Riley's press secretary, said the governor's prison task force, headed by state Finance Director Drayton Nabers, includes Finance Department
staffers Bill Newton, Carolyn Middleton and Laurie
Avant; the Legislative Fiscal Office's Joyce Bigbee
and Sharon Bivens; and Rosa Davis of the attorney
general's office. 

Azbell said the panel will look at potential sources
of funding as well as management steps to operate
state prisons more effectively and efficiently. "They
are looking at corrections from top to bottom," said

Thompson last week rejected a plan drawn up during the
administration of former Gov. Don Siegelman that
lawyers for inmates said "effectively does nothing" to
solve problems at Tutwiler. 

The plan called on Thompson to order Alabama counties
not to bring more inmates to Tutwiler for five months
to give prison officials time to ask the Legislature for emergency money to make improvements. 

Thompson said last week he lacks the authority to
order any inmates released or refused admission to
prison and that lack of money doesn't give the state
any excuse to violate the constitution. 

At a Jan. 21 hearing, lawyers for the state told Thompson that money is not available to make immediate changes at Tutwiler, but Thompson said from the bench, "If you have to get more money, you just have to get more money ... Lack of funds is not a defense." Lisa Kung of the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, representing state convicts, said Tuesday that she won't object to the state's request for more time, but she underscored Thompson's finding that Tutwiler is in "an emergency situation" and "a ticking time bomb."