Graduate Student Abby Rathel Examines Alabama Prisons

Abby Rathel is examining the challenges that people who are incarcerated face in Alabama’s prisons. Some common problems include the inability to adequately address overcrowding, understaffing, physical and sexual violence, and drug use within Alabama’s thirteen prisons. The state holds prisoners below the minimum standards necessary for survival in terms of housing, nutrition, cleanliness, and safety. Abby will include strain theory into the research to help describe how these stressors within prison can create acts of violence to occur more frequently. A historical content analysis will highlight the common themes that connect to the problems persisting from the past. The common themes are violence, structural problems, and prison operational issues. Abby will provide insight for policy makers to help improve the lives of incarcerated people and correctional staff members by analyzing the history of incarceration from the 1980s to the present in order to uncover the problems that still are emerging throughout the Alabama’s prison system. In the past, there have been many court cases against the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) regarding constitutional violations. Many governors have tried different solutions to help with these issues; however, the solutions have failed, and many problems still exist today. Therefore, it is important to critique past solutions, by offering new solutions to improve incarcerated peoples’ lives. Abby will do this by conducting semi-structured interviews to explore the experiences and perspectives of former ADOC inmates by focusing on how their experiences in prison prepared them for reentry.