Prison System: Alabama Department of Corrections
Status: Active since 1942
Offender Gender: Female
Security Level: Maximum; maternity care; all incoming female inmates are processed there
Distinguishing Feature: As a women’s prison, sexual abuse by guards can have visible consequences for the inmates; female inmates at Tutwiler have been impregnated by guards, verifying allegations of sexual abuse.
Inmate Capacity: 975
The real-life Julia Tutwiler was a prisoner reformer who sought a number of key reforms in the Alabama prison system. She not only sought to end controversial practices such as convict leasing and the failure to separate juvenile offenders from adults, but also sought to institute rehabilitation in the prison system through educational, health, and psychological programs. The prison named after her is Alabama’s primary women’s prison. All incoming female prisoners are processed through Tutwiler, which also has facilities for inmates with medical issues, handles pregnant inmates, and houses the state’s female death row inmates.
|Maximum Prison Capacity||975|
|Total Confined Females Aged 18+||678|
|Full-Time Prison Employees||132|
|Part-Time Prison Employees||8|
|Total Reported Assaults on Staff||5|
|Total Inmate Deaths||2|
The population at Tutwiler is varied. First, the population is in flux because Tutwiler serves as the initial processing prison for all incoming female inmates. It is at Tutwiler that they receive their initial evaluations, including health evaluations, and a determination regarding the appropriate prison for the duration of incarceration. Second, Tutwiler has the most up-to-date medical facilities for its female inmates; it is the former site of Alabama’s dedicated HIV/AIDS ward for female prisoners and currently houses inmates with major medical problems and inmates who are in need of long-term supportive care. Third, Tutwiler is the designated facility for pregnant inmates. What these three factors mean is that there is necessarily significant movement of inmates in and out of Tutwiler during the period of their incarceration. However, Tutwiler is also the permanent or semi-permanent home of a number of maximum security female prisoners and hosts Alabama’s female death row inmates.
It is impossible to discuss the living conditions at Tutwiler without discussing the prospect of sexual abuse; Tutwiler has the highest rate of sexual assault among prison facilities for women in the United States. Sexual abuse and sexual assault are constants in prison life; even in institutions that have taken every possible precaution to prevent guard-on-inmate assaults or inmate-on-inmate assaults, some sexual assaults occur. However, some prisons are known for their dangerous and violent atmospheres; Tutwiler is one of them. In the two year period between 2009 and 2011, six guards at Tutwiler, a relatively small institution, were indicted on charges related to sexual misconduct towards prisoners, but only two of the guards actually served time for their offenses, despite the fact that all six of them pled guilty to the charges. This suggests a pervasive culture of sexual abuse of the prisoners, which is backed up by the prisoners’ complaints.
The prisoners report feeling scared to engage in any isolated activity, including showering or going to sleep, because of the knowledge that guards might sexually assault inmates. Moreover, the prisoners report that not all of the sexual abuse takes the form of sexual assaults; they describe manipulative and abusive behavior by the guards, who might exchange sexual favors for better treatment. Women who refuse the advances might not face sexual assault, but may be disciplined for no reason because they refused to grant the requested sexual favors.
The idea that it is a culture of sexual abuse is supported by some of the prison’s policies. For example, female inmates are forced to shower and use the bathroom in full view of male guards.
Tutwiler has the same programs one would expect to find in prison, including education, healthcare, and mental healthcare. Unlike other prisons, none of Tutwiler’s programs has been highlighted as particularly helpful to the inmates who access them.
Tutwiler has a clothing factory that manufactures inmate clothing for state prisons.
Tutwiler opened in December 1942, but the original structure was replaced by a newer structure to meet the increasing need for room for female prisoners. Almost since its inception, Tutwiler was plagued by allegations of the guards sexually abusing prisoners. The U.S. Department of Justice investigated these claims and found that they were substantiated. It determined that the conditions at Tutwiler violated the prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, based on the sustained history of guards sexually abusing female inmates. This abuse was pervasive and permeated the entire facility, so that all of the inmates lived in fear of constant sexual assault. Prison officials did nothing to stop this, despite hard evidence, including the results of federal investigations verifying prisoner complaints.
Tutwiler was also the sight of a segregated HIV/AIDS ward. While this may have been a reasonable first response when HIV/AIDS first appeared, infected inmates at Tutwiler were kept separate from the general population long after medical science had established that there was no risk of transmission from people simply sharing living space. In addition to being housed separately, patients in the HIV/AIDS section were prevented from joining any of the prison programs. Eventually, a federal lawsuit resulted in an order directing Tutwiler to ends its HIV/AIDS segregation policy.
On February 2, 2016 Alabama’s Governor, Robert Bentley, announced that Tutwiler would be closed and replaced with a new prison facility. However, replacing the facilities will not address the systemic issues of sexual abuse.
Amy Hunt, a University of Alabama at Huntsville professor who killed three of her coworkers is serving a sentence of life without parole at Tutwiler. Linda Lyon Block, who was the first woman executed in Alabama after the death penalty was reinstituted, served her time on death row at Tutwiler.
Year Built or Opened: 1942 Warden or Supervisor: Bobby Barrett Daily Inmate Count: 678 Total Capacity: 975 Security Level(s): Maximum
Inmate Name and Register Number
8966 US Hwy 231 N
Wetumpka, AL, 36092
8966 US Hwy 231 N
Wetumpka, AL, 36092