Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women

Coordinates: 32°33′50″N 86°11′37″W / 32.56389°N 86.19361°W / 32.56389; -86.19361
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Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women
The front entrance of Julia Tutwiler Prison is located along U.S. Highway 231 in Wetumpka, Alabama.
LocationWetumpka, Alabama
Coordinates32°33′50″N 86°11′37″W / 32.56389°N 86.19361°W / 32.56389; -86.19361
Security classMaximum
Population985 (as of 2007)
OpenedDecember 1942 (1942-12)
Former nameWetumpka State Penitentiary
Managed byAlabama Department of Corrections
WardenDeidra Wright

The Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women is a prison for women of the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), located in Wetumpka, Alabama. All female inmates entering ADOC are sent to the receiving unit in Tutwiler.[1] Tutwiler houses Alabama's female death row, which qualifies it for the "maximum security" classification.[2]

Julia S. Tutwiler on prison reform[edit]

Known as the "angel of the prisons", Tutwiler pushed for many reforms of the Alabama penal system. In a letter sent from Julia Tutwiler in Dothan, Alabama to Frank S. White in Birmingham, Alabama, Tutwiler pushed for key issues such as the end to convict leasing, the re-establishment of night school education, and the separation of minor offenders and hardened criminals.[3] Tutwiler's letter cites major controversies during her time such as the Banner Mining Incident of 1911, where 125 of the 128 dead miners were convicts, predominately guilty of minor offenses, leased by state prisons.[4]

Tutwiler additionally suggested medical and psychological treatment for convicts such as rehabilitation for drug addicts, sanitation, and nurses to care for dying inmates who lack families to visit them. Despite her progressive stance on prison reform, Tutwiler also pandered to a segregationist approach to the prison system, advocating the separation of prison inmates by race as it is "important for public welfare to separate them in all other relations- in schools, in travel, and in social life, it would be better for both races if this could be done here also."[3]


Construction on the current Tutwiler Prison was completed in December 1942. The prison, built for $350,000, originally held up to 400 female prisoners. The current Tutwiler replaced the previous Wetumpka State Penitentiary, which was the first state prison.[citation needed]


Tutwiler has room for about 700 prisoners. The death row has room for four prisoners.[5] The prison has a clothing factory.[1]

Privacy curtains were installed in showers and toilets of one dormitory in 2014.[6]

One dormitory has walls painted pink in order to soothe prisoners.[7]


The Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women housed 992 inmates in 2003, when U.S. District Judge Myron Herbert Thompson found that its overcrowded, underfunded conditions were so poor that they violated the U.S. Constitution.[8]

In 2012, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a nonprofit that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners, filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice saying that "[i]n interviews with more than 50 women...EJI uncovered evidence of frequent and severe officer-on-inmate sexual violence."[9]

In May 2013, Tutwiler ranked as one of the ten worst prisons in the United States, based on reporting in Mother Jones magazine.[10]

Results of investigation[edit]

On January 17, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice released a report of their findings of their investigation into the allegations of ongoing sexual abuse of inmates by prison guards. "We find that the State of Alabama violates the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution by failing to protect women prisoners at Tutwiler from harm due to sexual abuse and harassment from correctional staff.

"Tutwiler has a history of unabated staff-on-prisoner sexual abuse and harassment. The women at Tutwiler universally fear for their safety. They live in a sexualized environment with repeated and open sexual behavior, including: abusive sexual contact between staff and prisoners; sexualized activity, including a strip show condoned by staff; profane and unprofessional sexualized language and harassment; and deliberate cross-gender viewing of prisoners showering, urinating and defecating.


"Officials at the Alabama Department of Corrections ("ADOC") and Tutwiler have failed to remedy the myriad systemic causes of harm to the women prisoners at Tutwiler despite repeated notification of the problems. ADOC and Tutwiler have demonstrated a clear deliberate indifference to the harm and substantial risk of harm to women prisoners. They have failed to take reasonable steps to protect people in their custody from the known and readily apparent threat of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. Officials have been on notice for over eighteen years of the risks to women prisoners and, for over eighteen years, have chosen to ignore them.


"We have made the following factual determinations:

"For nearly two decades, Tutwiler staff have harmed women in their care with impunity by sexually abusing and sexually harassing them. Staff have raped, sodomized, fondled, and exposed themselves to prisoners. They have coerced prisoners to engage in oral sex. Staff engage in voyeurism, forcing women to disrobe and watching them while they use the shower and use the toilet...


"Prison officials have failed to curb the sexual abuse and sexual harassment despite possessing actual knowledge of the harm, including a federal statistical analysis identifying sexual misconduct at Tutwiler as occurring at one of the highest rates in the country." [11]

On February 2, 2016, Alabama Governor Robert J. Bentley announced in his State of the State speech that Tutwiler prison would be closed as a part of a "complete transformation of the prison system," which would include the construction of new facilities. "The process" was due to start within the 2016 calendar year but, as of 2020, the prison remains open.[12]

Notable inmates[edit]

Inmates on Death Row[edit]

  • Patricia Blackmon - convicted in the murder of her 2-year-old stepdaughter, Dominiqua Bryant.
  • Tierra Capri Gobble - convicted in the murder of her 4-month-old son, Phoenix Cody Parrish.
  • Lisa Leanne Graham - convicted in capital murder of her daughter by a family friend.
  • Heather Leavell-Keaton - convicted in the murder of the children of her common-law husband, 4-year-old Natalie DeBlase and 3-year-old Chase DeBlase.
  • Christie Michelle Scott - convicted in the murder of her 6-year-old son, Mason Scott.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Tutwiler Prison for Women Archived 2010-03-18 at the Wayback Machine." Alabama Department of Corrections. Retrieved on September 5, 2010.
  2. ^ "Annual Report Fiscal Year 2003". Alabama Department of Corrections. 45/84. Retrieved on August 15, 2010. "Tutwiler also has a death row".
  3. ^ a b Tutwiler, Julia. "Letter from Julia S. Tutwiler in Dothan, Alabama, to Frank S. White in Birmingham, Alabama". State Campaign Committee for the Abolishment of the Convict Contract System (Birmingham, Ala.). Retrieved September 30, 2009.
  4. ^ "Banner Mining Tragedy of 1911". Retrieved March 21, 2007.
  5. ^ "Annual Report Fiscal Year 2012" (Archive). Alabama Department of Corrections. facilities map, page 26.
  6. ^ Shelburne, Beth. "FOX6 News tours Tutwiler prison." WBRC. 2014. Retrieved on June 11, 2016.
  7. ^ "Tutwiler Warden Copes with 'ticking Time Bomb'" (Archive). The Birmingham News at the Southern Center for Human Rights. April 8, 2003. Retrieved on December 27, 2015.
  8. ^ * "Tutwiler Warden Copes with 'Ticking Time Bomb'." The Birmingham News at the Southern Center for Human Rights. 8 April 2003. Retrieved on September 6, 2010.
  9. ^ "Women Allege Widespread Sexual Abuse at Alabama Prison, Nonprofit Group Says". CNN. 22 May 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  10. ^ Ridgeway, James; Casella, Jean. "America's 10 Worst Prisons: Julia Tutwiler". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2019-11-11.
  11. ^ "Massive Human Rights Violations in U.S. Prisons: Alabama's Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women - Institutionalized Rape of Prisoners by Guards" (PDF). Independent Workers Party of Chicago. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  12. ^ "TRANSCRIPT: Gov. Bentley's 2016 State of the State Address - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL - WBRC.com". www.wbrc.com. Archived from the original on 4 February 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  13. ^ Mcleod, Michael (9 May 2002). "Lynda Block Heads for the Electric Chair Convinced the Government Is the Enemy". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  14. ^ "Inmates Executed in Alabama Archived 2008-04-21 at the Wayback Machine". Alabama Department of Corrections. Retrieved on March 3, 2011.
  15. ^ "Amy Bishop-Anderson spends first night at Tutwiler prison". WAFF-TV. September 26, 2012. Archived from the original on May 31, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2012. "Amy Bishop-Anderson will spend the rest of her life inside Tutwiler prison. Alabama has three women's facilities, but Department of Corrections officials said she'll serve her time in Tutwiler in Wetumpka."
  16. ^ Hurley, Liz (2020-02-11). "What's changed 10 years after deadly UAH shootings?". WAFF. Retrieved 2020-06-16.
  17. ^ "Parole denied for Judith Ann Neelley in 1982 murder". 23 May 2018.
  18. ^ Times, Mike Marshall | The Huntsville. "Betty Wilson marries in prison". Gadsden Times.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)

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