EXCLUSIVE:One-On-One With Gov. Robert Bentley On Tutwiler Prison
We take an interview of a Tutwiler prison inmate we aired to viewers last month straight to Governor Robert Bentley to get his reaction and to find out if he says changes must be made at Tutwiler.
Governor Bentley saw some of the problems for himself when he recently toured Tutwiler about two weeks ago. When he heard the inmate's accounty, it was obvious how personally affected he was.
"Like if you're coming out of the shower, they're doing their count or walk through or something... they'll say, 'Mmm, you got a nice body. How old are you?' Or 'you got a nice set of t***.' Or 'you got a nice a**. You got nice legs'," Said the Tutwiler inmate who called the CBS 8 newsroom. We aired her story in January. You can watch her story here.
"You know, that comes straight from an inmate. What are your thoughts there when you hear something like that?" asked CBS 8 reporter, Catalina Trivino.
"I think that any time you hear things like that... that's disturbing. One of the problems that I see out there also is the lack of privacy. I see the fact that we don't have enough women guards, but we're working on that," Said Bentley.
Bentley says the prison does not need male correctional officers guarding women in the bathroom. He says he's talked to prison commissioner, Kim Thomas, about stopping that. He says more than 300 additional cameras will be installed by July. And with about 700 inmates at Tutwiler, he says over-crowding is a problem..
"We're looking at a facility called Tarwater which is not far from there. And this more cottage-like dormitories. And we want to renovate that," Said Bentley, who hopes to move some inmates there by the end of the year.
"Governor, do you still have confidence in your prison commissioner?" Said Trivino.
"I do. I think he's done a very good job," Said Bentley. "He's been in the system a long time, I understand that and some people think that if you've been in a system then you're part of the problem. But he has come up with many good ideas. In fact, there are 58 ideas that he has come up with, including the camera system."
Bentley says the prison culture also needs to change. He says prisoners need to know they can report sexual abuse. He says during his visit he personally checked the phones to make sure abuse was being reported.
Governor Bentley also says they've hired a firm called The Moss Group to work on policies, assessments and training at Tutwiler.
This action comes after The U.S. Department of Justice released a report saying for the last 18 years, women at Tutwiler Prison have been sexually abused and harrassed.
Bentley also says they are hiring a prison ombudsman in the governor's office. The ombudsman would allow the Governor direct access to what's going on in Tutwiler.