An Alabama Department of Corrections veteran says she’s using her position as a deputy commissioner to improve worker education and inmate safety in women’s correctional facilities.
The Montgomery Advertiser reported Sunday that the state Department of Corrections appointed Wendy Williams to serve as a deputy commissioner of women’s services in April.
Williams oversees the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, the Montgomery Women’s Facility and Birmingham Work Release. Williams has worked with the department since 1987 and has spent the past 12 years as the director of training at the Alabama Department of Corrections Training Academy in Selma.
Federal officials have criticized Tutwiler and the state Department of Corrections for reports of sexual harassment and abuse. State officials in late August announced that a new, 300-camera surveillance system had been installed at Tutwiler in hopes of bolstering inmate safety and employee oversight.
Williams said one of her chief goals is to use training programs for inmates and staff to ensure that inmates are safe and healthy. Before her position was created, Williams said administrators of male and female facilities reported through the same chain of command despite stark differences in inmate needs.
“The pathways that brought women to prison are different than male offenders,” Williams said. “Most have a past of abuse, poverty and mental illness. That’s not necessarily the same for male offenders.” Williams said male and female inmates have also been receiving the same clothing and hygiene items, and that will change on Oct. 31 because corrections staff sought input from inmates on the types of products they need.
“My goal in creating this position was to make sure we are identifying and utilizing gender-responsive practices and best practices for female offender management. Inmate safety is one of our top priorities,” department Commissioner Kim Thomas said in a statement.
The department also received a Prison Rape Elimination Act grant of $500,000. The newspaper reports that the department plans to use some of the grant to launch trauma-informed programs at Tutwiler to teach staff how inmates’ histories influence their development, psychological health and re-entry potential after release.
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