Pubdate: Tue, 15 Mar 2005
Source: Huntsville Times (AL)
Copyright: 2005 The Huntsville Times
Author: David Prather, for the editorial board


Legislators Should Find Out How Bad Things Are In Donaldson Prison

Stephen Bullard isn't happy in his work. You probably wouldn't be either if 
you were warden of the Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, near 

That's because the conditions in the prison stink - literally. The facility 
has space for about 1,000 prisoners. It holds 1,625 inmates. The surplus 
population has overloaded the prison's sewer system. You know what that means.

But that's not all that's wrong at Donaldson. There aren't enough employees 
to run the place, despite a 5 percent pay increase for prison workers 
willing to take on the work.

So Bullard is having to force workers to work overtime - sometimes as many 
as 32 extra hours a week.

And this isn't a medium-security prison. It houses inmates who are mentally 
ill. It houses inmates awaiting execution.

If Bullard's correct, Donaldson is a bureaucratic snake pit.

Bullard has been warden for five years in what he says is "considered by 
most in the department to be the most stressful institution in the state." 
He's asked for transfers, saying it's time someone else paid some dues. 
He's been denied.

So Bullard decided to go to the top. On March 1, he sent a memo to Donal 
Campbell, the commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, and 
said if something wasn't done about Donaldson, the state should expect 
"catastrophic consequences."

Overworked employees may sue, he warned. And riots and death are real 

Faced with a blunt warning from a veteran administrator, Campbell took firm 

He put Bullard on 10-day administrative leave. And that could be extended.

Talk about shooting a messenger.

Talk about the "open administration" of Gov. Bob Riley.

Talk about ignoring a problem rather than facing up to it.

Many government issues are more complex than some of us want to admit, but 
it seems pretty clear what's at issue here:

Either Bullard is right or he's wrong.

Either Donaldson is dangerously overcrowded or it isn't.

Either employees are being overworked or they aren't.

And either the state is facing a time bomb at Donaldson or this is so much 
hot air.

All of the evidence favors Bullard. All of the actions of the Department of 
Corrections smell as strongly of cover-up as Donaldson smells of sewage.

Luckily, the Legislature is still in session.

Committees with oversight over prison funding can call Bullard to testify. 
The legislators, and the public, can hear what he has to say and decide 
whether the situation is so dire that immediate intervention is needed.

In fact, that's the only prudent, responsible action that leaders of this 
state can take.

And it shouldn't be difficult to arrange a time for Bullard to testify. 
After all, he's got some time on his hands now.
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