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Alabama’s treatment of prisoners violates Constitution, Justice Department says

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Prison system violates Constitution, feds say

The Justice Department said in a report Wednesday that Alabama is violating the Constitution by failing to protect prison inmates from violence and sexual abuse and housing them in unsafe, overcrowded facilities. The department gave Alabama 49 days to begin to correct the violations or possibly face another federal lawsuit.

“Our investigation found reasonable cause to believe that Alabama fails to provide constitutionally adequate conditions and that prisoners experience serious harm, including deadly harm, as a result,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, who leads the department’s civil rights division. Gov. Kay Ivey promised to work together on “an Alabama solution.”

The scathing report released Wednesday condemns virtually every aspect of prison operations, chronicling a “broken system” beset by poor staff training; an inability to prevent drugs and weapons from entering; “and a high level of violence that is too common, cruel, of an unusual nature, and pervasive.”

It lays out in stark detail a culture of violence across the state’s 13 prisons for men, which together house roughly 16,000 inmates in among the nation’s most overcrowded conditions.

Investigators reviewed over 600 reported inmate-on-inmate sexual assaults from late 2016 through April 2018 and “did not identify a single incident in which a correctional officer or other staff member observed or intervened.”

— Associated Press

Former frat brothers sentenced in death

A judge has sentenced three former Penn State fraternity members to jail in the 2017 death of a pledge, the first defendants ordered to serve time behind bars in a case that rewrote Pennsylvania’s anti-hazing law.

Centre County Judge Brian Marshall sentenced former Beta Theta Pi members Tuesday for hazing surrounding the death of sophomore engineering major Tim Piazza, 19, of Lebanon, N.J.

The sentences were 30 days to six months for Michael Bonatucci, 21, of Woodstock, Ga.; two to six months for Luke Visser, 21, of Encinitas, Calif.; and three to nine months for Joshua Kurczewski, 20. A fourth defendant, Joseph Sala, 21, received three to 10 months of house arrest. Kurczewski and Sala live in Erie, Pa.

Each was also fined and given a probation term. They were all sentenced for hazing and conspiracy to commit hazing, and Kurczewski also pleaded guilty to furnishing alcohol to minors.

Piazza drank heavily the night of a pledge bid-acceptance ceremony and was fatally injured in a series of falls, his agonizing night captured on the house’s elaborate video security system.

Piazza also suffered severe head and abdominal injuries. He ended up in the basement the next morning, but it took members 40 minutes after finding Piazza injured and unconscious before they summoned help.

— Associated Press

FDA reviews seizures among e-cig users

U.S. health officials are investigating whether electronic cigarettes may trigger seizures in some people who use the nicotine-vaping devices.

The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday it has reviewed 35 reports of seizures among e-cigarettes users, mainly in young people. Regulators stressed it’s not yet clear whether vaping is responsible. But they said they’re concerned, and they encouraged the public to report information about the issue.

These cases warrant “investigation into whether there is in fact a connection,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. Gottlieb is stepping down on Friday after nearly two years heading the agency.

— Associated Press