Shame on Alabama

By an Alabama inmate*

2015-2016

This is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.

That is what the following that you are about to read is and will be. You may not like it, and you probably won’t, you may even doubt it or disregard it, but it will still be the truth, and not what your elected officials and appointed do-boys want you to believe, and yet have been reportedly telling you the public for years. If you doubt because of who or where I presently am, I can prove every word that’s said and that makes me dangerous to these liars.

I have been incarcerated here in the Alabama Department of Corruption (ADOC) since November, 1989, almost 26 straight years, for Theft of Property 1st degree, from Mobile County (I was passing through). I have not been out since that arrest, nor have I been pardoned, I have been denied repeatedly, yet I have only had 5 disciplinary infractions in all these years. I am well educated, and I have completed every so-called program the ADOC allows me to participate in. I am a practitioner of Native American Spirituality and believe deeply in the existence we as humans share, and yes there is a creator.

I am also guilty of the charged Alabama crime. I am sorry it happened and I have paid dearly for it. I have put this before you to let you know this will be based on facts, the truth, and be honestly given to you so you’ll know how your politicians are and have lied to you.

What you are about to be informed about is what the true reality is, no cover-up, no misinformation being thrown at you to scare you into reacting and doing (voting) on what your politicians are trying to get you to do. Just the true honest facts.

Fact 1

This wonderous cure-all Prison Reform Bill [SB67], that has been talked about for the last 15 years, that your legislature just passed, well here is the real scoop on it:

– It does not do anything to relieve the worst overcrowded prison system in these United States. They are telling the public it fixes the problem. They have lied to you! Why?

There is nothing in the whole Bill SB67 that relieves or releases, or even helps release anyone who now makes up this prison overcrowding problem. Nor would it help anyone who has done 20+ years inside here with a chance or any way out of here. Here is why:

First, they never tell you the public the exact real prison population. It is always between 28,000 or 33,000 whenever they state the prison population figures.

Second, if a prison system is designed to hold less than 14,000 inmates, and the actual population is one of thes 28,000 to 33,000 figures, how can a prison system only be 185 to 190% capacity when the figures say it’s actual number is twice the designated capacity? The true figures don’t lie, but the politicians tell you only what they want you to hear, and yet Sen. Cam Ward went before Congress on July 15, 2014, and stated the prison popuation was “192%,” but he doesn’t tell you the public that. You’re not really supposed to know, so they hide the real truth. Doesn’t it make you wonder what else they hide from you?

The Prison Bill has the Parole Board hiring 100 new parole officers, for who? Not anybody in here, but to drop the caseload of the already hired Parole Board officers, yet only 3 out of 10 people are granted parole. Those parole figures have steadily declined since 2008.

Also, they keep talking about the Federal government coming in and taking over the prison system. The Federal government doesn’t want to take over, it has 48 other states that have overcrowding problems to worry about. Alabama is just the worst.

If the Alabama politicians don’t fix the problems they themselves have helped create, then they can let the Feds take over, and sit back and say “We told you (Alabama) they would take over,” and they don’t have to worry about being voted out of their easy jobs by looking like they are easy on crime or couldn’t fix what their own have created.

Did you know that Governor Bentley’s January 14, 2014 State of the State address said not one word about fixing the prison probem? You should read it.

Fact 2

Sen. Ward and new Commissioner Dunn have both stated that 4500 inmates will be released within the next 5 years.

How?
They don’t tell you that.
Why?
Because that money will be released through normal ADOC or Parole operations. This does not drop the overcrowded population in any way. There are that many prisoners awaiting to come from county jails and the streets new. Yet, they also tell you the Prison Reform Bill will expand the prison system by up to 2000 more beds. Where are they gonna be put?

But it is interesting that neither 4500 released inmates nor the 2000 bed expansion was in the revised Bill the Governor signed.

What are you telling the public these lies for?

Again, there is nothing in this miraculous Bill that releaves the overcrowding.

And Mr Commissioner Dunn: the Federal Courts have already struck down the stacking of beds three (3) high. They stopped that at W.E. Donaldson and St. Clair. Making it even more overcrowded and dangerous is not the solution. There is already enough violence in here now, how much more will you create and how many more inmates will one guard have to oversee, or how many more stabbings and deaths will you allow?

And yes, a lot of these needless stabbings and inmate deaths are on those politicians’ hands for creating this mess in here. But they won’t take credit for that, will they? They tell you whatever they want you to believe, but it’s not reality. Nothing changes and what is bad gets worse.

For the last 15 years that I know of, every year it’s been the same: “The prison system is broke, we need more money.” Again more money is given, yet the system doesn’t get fixed, it gets worse. Yet these politicians keep saying the same old song and dance, but you keep re-electing these same showmen. They took $500 million from you to fix problems, and now they can’t repay it. Where did that money go? The same problems still exist, yet they will think up something new the following year. But that’s okay, you’ll never know about it.

Makes me wonder who the true criminals are: the ones who take your money by telling you whatever they want to -or what you want to hear, or us who are actually incarcerated, and who have to live in the mess they have created?

Maybe those elected officials should spend some time in here, I bet they’d change their tunes. But like Don Seigleman who got caught in the cookie jar, he is in a nice federal retirement home prison.

Fact 3

Some of us (a lot actually) have lived in here 20+ years and have lived through the ADOC’s bragging about feeding all its inmates three (3) times a day on less than $1.00 (one dollar) (in the 1980s and ’90s).

Well, guess what? Now most of us that have lived through that are sick. I am 61 years old and my health and that of a lot of older inmates is failing and an awful lot are dying in here.

We do not get fresh vegetables or fruit (one apple, one orange a month). Our meat patties are made by the ADOC and are full of meat byproducts. The veggies come out of cans gotten from the lowest bidders. They are not the same quality you buy at the grocery store. And they are usually over- or undercooked and not seasoned at all. The cooking is done by inmates who would rather steal it to sell, than take pride or time to prepare it. Almost all who are forced to work in the kitchens don’t want or care to be there anyway. So why should they care what the food tastes like?

We do not get salt or pepper. Yet if you read an ADOC menu it makes it sound like we eat at a four (4) star restaurant, and your tax dollars at work. Why would you have multiple dieticians working in Montgomery on a menu that almost never changes? It has only changed 3 or 4 times in the last 20 years, and these multiple dieticians are getting paid very good money for basically doing nothing.

Your tax dollars at work.

Or take the “ADOC family plan.” There are so many family members working in the ADOC, like one family member working in the laundry and two in the kitchen. Even some akin to eachother work the same shifts. There are husbands and wives working the same shifts at some prisons, yet they are not supposed to be doing that. But the ADOC does what it wants.

You should see how much wasted food goes out of here because no one will eat it. The cats in here won’t even eat these meat patties they give us, they are that bad.

After all these years of havingto eat these meals to survive in here, the quality and quantity we are fed has destroyed a lot of our health. The ADOC’s medical costs have soared because of it. There’s all kinds of newspaper articles to look it up, or better just ask the commissioners. They are constantly complaining about health costs to the media. Well again, they have helped cause these rising health costs by these unhealthy meals they feed us in here, year after year.

Do you know how the health inspectors do spot-checks on restaurants you go to? Not in here, they know days ahead of time when they’ll make their spot-checks for inspection. And it will be clean and pretty, but yet there will be roaches and rats still running around. And within a day of the inspection they look like they usually do: unclean tables (metal), black knots so thick you can’t even see the trays with food on them. Who cleans these? Inmates who don’t want to work but are forced to. What would you expect of 1200 men, locked up and who do not want to work (for very low wages) or even care about something that “belongs to the state”? But these state inspectors work for…the state. Go figure.

Fact 4

This new Commissioner Dunn has said if the Legislature cuts his budget he’ll have to close 2 prisons. Wake up out there: where would he move 2000 inmates to? He certainly cannot release them and he won’t. There is no place to move that many inmates to. So he is already sounding like a politician. And here’s an ex-military officer coming in to run a prison system that’s 20+ years behind the times, and way behind the other state prison systems.

Commissioner Dunn took office on April 1st 2015, and he is yet to even visit the first prison he’s deciding over. How can you lead when you haven’t even seen what you are leading and the true picture of how messed up it is? Are you, Commissioner Dunn, relying on what some staff member who has had an easy cushy job for years tells you what you want to know? Are you even going to talk to us who have been here longer than your officers, about the real issues inside here? Oh yeah, we don’t know anything or matter to you. Kim Thomas didn’t listen either, tht makes us in here wonder why he ran away and went to work for Governor Bentley’s legal team: was he bailing out before it really got bad? What’s the deal on that?

But here is reality: one officer being responsible for two (2) cell blocks that hold over 200 people each for 8 hours (Draper), and here one officer over 240 or 188 inmates, and now according to the June 12, 2015 newsarticle that they have changed the projected Red Eagle prison, and will close Ventress and Draper, and say that 5000 inmates have to be moved. Well, another lie! Between the two prisons there are only about 2600 at most. Another score tactic to be used on you, the public.

And now here’s another State Finance Director, Bill Newton, telling you in this June 12th article that the ADOC is going to have to close two prisons. What does he have to do with ADOC? Is he just trying to make it sound good, and cause panic? It’s a lie and they can and will not do it. They have been threatening to close a prison for years (so they say) and have not, and can’t do it. Alabama, are you listening to these lies?

I live in a 240 men dorm (warehouse). My bed is 39 inches from someone on each side of me, and 21 inches from the bed that makes up the isle behind my head, from the mattrass, which is 1 ½ inches thick; one steel bed frame (not springs) to the bed directly above me is 27 inches, When I sit on the edge of this bed, my neck hits the steel frame above me. I have one blanket, two sheets, no pillow, and I had better take care of those sheets, because I won’t get any more (I’ve had one set for six years). I have a laundry bag and a bed box that is 31 ½ x 25 x 6 inches, or 3 square feet of storage space. That’s it to hold anything I have after 24 years in here. It’s about the size of one of your chest of drawers. And you’ll still have more space. That’s my home, subject to be searched anytime 24/7, to be torn up or destroyed and anything taken as contraband by any ADOC employee wanting to do it. For any reason or no reason at all.

And it’s hot: not airconditioned, only a few ceiling fans. The airconditioning is for the ADOC or medical units. Nowhere else. Not for the inmates. And the temperatures go up into the high 90s and more. It’s not a nice environment to live in or sleep in, and to prove my point: on June 13th 2015 there was one officer over 188 inmates and he got stabbed for taking a phone. This put all the other staff on panic. Just another day in the ADOC.

Fact 5

The ADOC budget is $400 million dollars plus, yet here in one of Alabama’s oldest prisons which is falling apart the maintenance budget is only $60.000 a year. That is to fix all the maintenance problems. When it rains, the dorm I live in has a mini flood from the water coming in, and this is every time it rains, and yet the ADOC paid $20 million in overtime salaries to its employees, for one year. What other company or state agency pays that kind of money for overtime?

In 2009, the overtime salaries for the ADOC went like this:

A C.O.I. officer made $28 and change. A sergeant $32 and change, a lieutenant $38 and change, and a captain $42 and change, and every weekend a aptain would sit in a tower for 8 hours and get paid $42 an hour. All overtime, and I think it’s the same now in 2015, but you pay that, Alabama.

And in here I get one (1) roll of toilet paper and one (1) bar of soap a week. I get 3 sets of clothes: 3 shirts, 3 pants, and that’s supposed to last a year, with one of those sets being for visitation. I get no other type hygiene products except for shaving cream and a disposable razor. We must be clean shaved at all times. If you need anything else you buy it or do without.

Fact 6

The Alabama courts have nowhere to send mental health prisoners. The State has closed its main mental health facilities, so guess where the State through its judges are sending these individuals? They have flooded the prison system with the mental health patients.

It’s not a pretty sight in here seeing the problems and situations these guys face. They need more help than these officers are willing or trained to give them, or are even equipped to handle. There has been a mental health lawsuit filed against the State by the Southern Poverty Law Center on this issue, yet it remains unresolved. And yet, the infamous Senator Ward told a congressional subcommittee on July 15, 2014, that 56,2% of Alabama prisoners have mental health problems [see page 8 of http://media.al.com/news_impact/other/Read%20what%20Ward%20told%20the%20panel.pdf ]. And yet I have seen first hand these same mental patients stopped, beat up, attacked, robbed of their possessions, and made to stand up all day in an enclosed shower stall, as punishment for their actions, this being done by inmates and prison guards. They truly need help.

But Senator Ward went all the way to Washington to talk about an Alabama prison problem. Why did he spend the taxpayers’ money to discuss an Alabama problem with some other people who can’t fix the Alabama problem? Was he grandstanding? Or being a typical politician?

Did you know Senator Ward submitted the Bill to repeal the Kirby Law, which actually helped some inmates sentenced to Life Without Parole or Life get their sentences reduced? (See this article by Lee Hedgepeth, in the Alabama Political Reporter on Senator Ward’s SB84, Jan. 25 [13], 2014). This was the only law that these inmates could use to get actual help from the court system for errors that had been made on their sentences. Sounds like Senator Ward doesn’t like inmates or inmates getting help.

Is that, Sen. Ward, why this Prison Reform Bill you pushed through does absolutely nothing to ease the real problems? What the public doesn’t know is you have pushed through this Bill that actually raises and increases sentences to further fill the system, yet this Bill you kept saying will save Alabama money and ease the worst crowded prison system in America does neither. No one has eased the present problem. It’s still here. This SB67 isn’t even a good bandaid to slow it down. You’ve shoved more responsibility on a Parole Board and the ADOC to manage things they can’t manage now.

People, do not believe me, read the Bill, then you’ll understand. They talk the talk, and yet it’s always the same, just different words and promises or quick fixes that actually change nothing in here, the words just fool you, the ones who pay for their unfulfilled promises.

Senator Ward must want to be Governor. It seems like you always want to be seen or heard. Hey Senator, even I, a lowly inmate, can tell you how to truly ease overcrowding in just a couple of very simple ways. You make it seem like it’s a major problem. You don’t want to ease this moneymaker, just tell the public the truth, and how about that DUI problem, Senator Ward?

Fact 7

We inmates are simply being warehoused. I know the public isn’t really concerned with inmate comfort, but as they continue to pack us into these few facilities and not truly letting anyone out, we have become a cash cow for the ADOC through the tax payers and the Federal Funds that the State gets for prisoners that they also do not tell the public about (which is in the millions of dollars).

So the more they keep in here, the more money comes into Alabama, its a fact, at $42.50 a fay (Senator Ward’s figure before Congress). For every inmate in the ADOC you add it up, and with some of us being in here 20+ years (on property crimes) and then parole and probation violaters that are kept for 5+ years or more, for simple technical violations like moving without permission or failed drug tests, who are yet not let back out for long periods of time… Don’t get me wrong, some of these other inmates that have done 20+ years need and should be in here.

But long sentences and life sentences back in the 1970s could be served in 7 to 10 years, then paroled, then it went to 15 years at one time in Alabama. Now according to this 3-member Parole Board, they told my family and several others, that in Alabama a Life sentence means a Life sentence. Even if an inmate was not sentenced to Life Without Parole, and yet I know an inmate who was paroled in 4 years on a Life sentence. So who truly makes the rules or the law, the Parole Board? If someone with a Life sentence can’t be paroled (for a property offense, like mine) or the Parole Board won’t parole someone who is eligible, how does someone get out, and help ease the overcrowding that is happening in Alabama? He (she) doesn’t, he has become part of the warehousing and money machine and will probably die in here (my biggest fear).

These politicians have no solution to ease overcrowded prisons. Well, to name but one:

Set a cap on how long someone must actually serve on a life sentence. Other States already have done so, it carries from 15 years to 25, 30 years for others. After that many years of being locked up, shouldn’t someone be abe to be released for nonviolent property crimes? There are a lot of them in here, including myself.

There is no such thing as rehabilitation in the Alabama prison system. There is not! There are no life skills programs for the majority who need it, only for a very select few, which the ADOC wants to showboat or deceive the public with for more money. The ones chosen have little time to serve and haven’t been locked up for any prolongued time either. Your tax money at work. It may help a few but it ignores the many. If you do not try to rehabilitate yourself, the State won’t and doesn’t care: if you do or don’t, it’s all money in their bank so why should they care?

Let me give you some of the parole figures given at a meeting of citizens in Birmingham, which come from the Council of State Government Justice Center (CSG). They said Alabama has some of the highest crime rates in the country. Total crime is 8th highest, violent crime 14th, and property crime 7th compared to all other states, for the years 2008-2012 [see also these figures.]

The actual Alabama Parole figure are for 2008: 43%, 2009: 41%, 2010: 40%, 2011: 31%, 2012: 29%, 2013: 30%. If you’ll notice the figures that made parole have steadily declined. Why? What happened that so many were denied parole? Alabama is 4th in the country in adult incarceration (CSG), yet the Parole Board has kept more and more fom being released, again: why?

More prisoners, more money? Shouldn’t somebody explain this steady decline in paroles? I bet no one will, ’cause they don’t care. Yet the prison population in 2008 was 29,959, and then in 2013 it rose to 32,467, and they keep telling the public that the prison is only at 190%. And yet 2,266 more inmates have come into the prison system since 2008, than have gone out. Can you guess where they put them?

Fact 8

The ADOC has sold off all their moneymaking industries, the farms, farm equipment, horses, cattle, hogs, catfish ponds, and now there is nothing for inmates to do. No way to work off stress or be kept occupied, or to learn any type of responsibility, or work-ethic. A few go to trade school (more money into the system), a few get GED’s, but the larger majority of ADOC inmates do nothing, except, lay around, shoot the breeze, about all the things they want someone to believe. They talk about the crimes they did or are going to do, only differently, so they don’t get caught, gangbang, get tattood, or do drugs. Yet these are the revolving-door ‘non-violent’ inmates who are always being released.

Do you know that a study was done on 100 violent inmates and 100 non-violent inmates who were released. Here is the result: 85% of the [so-called] non-violent offenders came back, yet only 2% of the ‘violent’ offenders returned. Are you listening? Gives you something to think about, doesn’t it? ADOC job security, and lots of money for the State to get.

I’ve watched these non-violent inmates come and go, some as many as 3 or 4 times with new sentences and still get back out, with almost no actual time spent incarcerated. When some of us oldtimers try to teach or show these newbys (shorttimers) how to think or act differently to change their lives and stay out, we’re laughed at or told we don’t know what’s going on. It’s amazing they’re doing life on the installment plan, and don’t even realize it.

But I guess when half your neighborhood is in here, it’s just like being at home, and easier to plan the next great caper. The courts give all these short split sentences and know they’ll only be here for a little while, so why should they do any work or try to change in here, or even get on education? Some never get out of bed, just up all night, and no responsibilities. They don’t care, nor does the ADOC.

The less the ADOC officers have to do, the better they like it. And they tell us so. Free easy money, and all the overtime they want… don’t believe me, but check out the July 7/8, 2014 Tuscaloosa News article, which states: 20 million in overtime paid to prisons. This was done in 2013. This article appeared in every State newspaper. Quick, join up, corrections is hiring. There’s a 21-year-old who just worked 50 hours overtime, at $28.00 an hour. Good money.

But, you should also be aware that some ADOC personell, not all, have stolen from inmates, took illegal cellphones and then sold them back to whom they were taken from or to other inmates. For a $19.95 flip phone it costs upwards of $300.00 without a charger, for the smartphones it’s $350-600, without chargers. I’ve seen guards charge toll fees to transport contraband from the kitchen to cell blocs (St. Clair) or let inmates steal what they want as long as the kitchen officers get their cut; take an inmate’s personal property and call it ‘contraband,’ even religious items; take legal paperwork and personal legal books (at Fountain) to hinder legal work, and deliberately take and the destroy sacred religious articles, that inmates are actually allowed to have, then tell them “You don’t like it? Sue me, we’ve got plenty of lawyers” (St. Clair). But you, tax payers, pay for this. This has happened and still happens. A guard walks into a kitchen during chow call, takes a small brown paperbag, fills it with cookies made for the inmates, then walks around eating these same cookies in front of all in the chow hall, an inmate confronts him, then writes a complaint on him, and the inmate gets punished and locked up in segregation, and the officers laugh about it (St. Clair). And they keep saying Tutwiler is a bad place. But nobody wants to know about any of this.

You follow the rules they (ADOC) have set out and nobody cares or does anything. You complain or cause trouble by having someone on the outside complain, then you (the inmate) are going to end up in segregation or at worst stabbed up or beat up by this officer’s homeboy who is a locked up inmate or inmates, it happens in here, but no one cares. There are stabbings or killings happening in here pretty often but the outside is very seldom ever told. And I ask: Hello, are you listening or do you even care?

Welcome to the ADOC and reality. I know you the public have your own lives and problems, but hey you’re paying for this stuff with your tax dollars. Your State governments and State agencies are not telling you the truth about what you should know about. But the only thing that I have been able to come up with these 20+ years is, the Legislature keeps shifting the burdens on to the next ones, and the next one keeps passing it on down the line. The State Legislature that you vote for does not fix the very problem they have helped create. Yet they cry wolf and say whatever they need to say to get more of your money, for their self-caused problems. And you continue to pay!

Hey Alabama, are you that blind, nonhearing, or do you just not want to get involved? Well you re involved, because what you keep failing to acknowledge is these locked-up individuals in here, will get out some day, and they will be changed, angry, unskilled to cope with modern society, and desperate. What will you do when you release someone society has passed by with new technologies, new laws that make it harder on the ones released and you give him $10.00 to get started on? Could you do it?

Hey Alabama, your prison system is a mess and it is only getting worse, because you keep changing the commissioner at the top trying to change the system or fix the problem, yet all the rest of the top stay the same. So what’s gonna change? Nothing! You have to change the people causing the problem to make things change. The ADOC will never change, because it’s going to keep doing what it always has, and the people of Alabama will keep on paying for it, because the ADOC is not accountable or answerable for anything it does, or any amount of money you supply it to spend.

But Alabama, you should want to know. And you should want to know how you’re being lied to. Do you? Prove it.

Alabama, life has changed as I knew it 25 years ago. Cell phones have been invented, Ipods, even MP3-players have come and have now mostly gone. But I have done what I can to change me. I used what was offered. But then I am from a different generation.

What does the future hold? I have no idea. But your taxpayers will foot the bill for it. You will continue to pay for your politicians, and they’ll get rich. They still won’t tell you the truth, ’cause it’s like what Jack Nicholson said in “A Few Good Men,” “The Truth, you can’t handle the Truth.” I do give you more credit, but time will tell, how long you keep accepting the loss of your hard-earned money. For your politicians’ failures, and when the ‘mass accident’ that’s waiting to happen in here, happens, they’ll come crying and screaming for you to give more money to fix their continued failure. As Senator Ward said in 2012, cited in a Jan. 7th, 2014 article: “The whole system is a ticking time bomb…”

It has already actually started, these last 3 years with all the inmate killings and assaults or other acts of violence within these fences. This is even on Correctional officers. The mini-riot at St. Clair. The incidents at Holman, and all the ones you don’t know about most of all. Because they won’t tell you about that unless it fits their agenda’s.

An ADOC officer stated to me that, “If this place was a dog pound in here, the way it is ran and the conditions it’s in, someone would be in jail for it.” It’s amazing that a dog pound is in beter shape than a prison system. Even their own ADOC employees know it. But they won’t let you know that.

I promised the Truth, well did you truly want it? ‘Cause that’s what you’ve been given.

The ADOC do not want us writing or letting those on the outside world to know about what it’s really like, or what goes on in here. Out of sight, out of accountability, the beatings, stabbings, the real violence, the race-related problems [unreadable], and how the keepers of the gates are not all they are supposed to be. You should check out how many have been charged and convicted for stealing our Social Security numbers and ID’s and selling them. Yet the ADOC doesn’t even tell us about this going on, we find out from newspapers. They have stolen mine and filled false Income Tax on me twice… And I knew nothing about it. [see: here (Justice Department website) and here for example]

One final word, for those of us who do get out, will you be there to help or to turn your backs on us, as your judges, district attorneys, legislators, and so-called defense attorneys all have when we enter the system, when we have been abused, dehumanized, stripped of any pride or ambitions, and yet tryign to have a little dignity in the face of adversity?

Like ex-Supreme Court Judge Sue Bell Cobb said in her own editorial from 2014, WWJD? Reform Alabama’s horrible criminal sentencing laws. What would Jesus do, Alabama, about these packed prisons and horrible criminal sentencing laws?

Alabama, don’t let them keep telling you only what they want you to know. Ask questions, or in the end you’ll be paying a lot more of your money on taxes for things you do not want or need.

Thanks for listening, Alabama, I only hope you truly are.

Now for a quick update:
The ADOC has stopped serving its inmates eggs of any kind, and hasn’t for a few months now. ADOC is also not giving adequate substitutes calorie-wise, if at all, to make up for its loss of food that makes up our daily diets. They have taken away pancakes, oranges, apples (we only got them once a month). No type of fresh produce of any kind. Yet their prison budget was fully funded and they have still cut down on the portions they feed us. Why?

They are telling us here at Atmore that before or shortly after the New Year (2016) they are going to put 250 more inmates into an already overcrowded unit (1250 inmates). And we’re wondering where these extra beds will go!

So Alabama, are you listening? I’m still wondering why Cam Ward keeps talking about the millions that are going to be saved by the ADOC (Nov. 6, 2015)…. How is this Bill you passed saving any money, when you had to have 26 million to fund it and will have to keep funding it? You are not saving anything. Quit telling the people of Alabama fairy tales. Oh, I forgot you’re a politician, you’re good at that. But what about your DUI, do you want to tell us more about that? I didn’t think so.

Well Alabama, you’ve been told, will you continue to let business be as usual? Your money, your future neighbors are in here. Are you just going to let the time bomb explode? These killings, stabbings, semi-riot situations happening all over the state, but do they tell you the truth or even let you know it?

It’s your choice and really your responsibility, and as Judge Sue Bell Cobb said: “Alabama what would Jesus do?”

Shame on Alabama!

The author of this pamphlet

And all Alabama inmates

Dec. 2015

Finished typing and editing on June 2016

  • We’ve made this article anonymous, because we do not want to cause the author any repercussions for expressing his opinion.

Also published on Decarcerate the Garden State

“Let’s just shut down” – An Interview with Spokesperson Ray of Free Alabama Movement

By Annabelle Parker, October 2014
Q: How did you come about starting the Free Alabama Movement, what was the thing or issue that triggered it? And were you all in general population? You are still in solitary (the hole) now, right? Please elaborate on how it works from there, and what is possible, from there.

F.A.M. came about in stages and events that were somewhat unrelated to F.A.M. at the time, but

which ultimately served as seeds for the future. Small steps like coming into prison and joining a law class that was being taught by a mentor. Then, latching onto the coattail of a revolutionary PP and Black Panther named Richard “Mafundi” Lake and hearing phrases like “organize” over and over again.


And growing from a student in the law classes to a teacher. Then, taking on individual cases that started to open my eyes to the systematic approach in which the judicial system was incarcerating black youth in droves. At this time, I had  not even heard the phrase “mass incarceration.”

The next step along the process was when I got transferred to St. Clair prison, where a whole new world was opened up to me because cell phones were prevalent and so abundant. I was introduced to technology . . .  and started to learn about social media and new ways to reach out and interact with society.

By this time, I had learned that the law was not practiced as it was written, and that the criminal justice system did not really care about Justice at all.

Nevertheless, just having access to technology, I began a campaign to bring awareness to my case, and started a website called Innocentmanmelvinray.com. Being still just a tad bit naive’, I thought that I could reach out more effectively with the technology that the phone provided and get the kind of help I needed. Needless to say, this notion, too, was soon disabused.

But the one thing that this failure did do to help bring F.A.M. into existence was that it allowed me to see that there were many other people out there doing what I was doing, dealing with the same issues, but who were, likewise, not having the success that we deserved. That insight ultimately lead me back to what Mr. Mafundi always stressed: “organize.”
Realizing that there were literally thousands of “Innocentmanmelvinray’s” out there (the most poignant one that I ran across that stays in my mind is Davontae Sandford’s case), I started asking myself how can I bring these collectives together? That question sprung the concept of “FREE ALABAMA” into my mind. At that time, I was in solitary confinement and it was during that time that I had learned about the December 9, 2010, shutdown by the men in Georgia.I told myself that I could take that concept and build around it.

From my early days at Holman prison, I used to talk with two of my Brothers about how we needed to get a small camcorder into the prison. They used to laugh at the thought, because technology hadn’t shrunk camcorders then but I knew that the day was coming when they would be small enough.
From that point on, I began laying the groundwork for how I would start “organizing” my prison, and then my State, and how I would use a cellphone to record, interview, and document everything.

From reading Stokely Carmichael’s book, Ready For Revolution, I also knew that when the time came, we would be bold with our Movement. I wouldn’t allow anyone who did an interview to use a street name or nickname, because I wanted to dispel any pretense of fear in our Movement, plus, I wanted people who watched the videos to be able to go to court records in order to authenticate what people were saying about their cases and the injustices they had received — whether wrongful convictions, excessive sentences, whatever.
So when I got out of segregation I went to work. I started talking to leaders, explaining the philosophy, taking pictures, filming living conditions, and interviewing. I also started writing a manifesto. But in the process of all of this, the final thing that happened was that I read Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow. She has a passage in there that said that it would take a “Movement” to take down mass incarceration. That was the first time I had saw anyone boldly make that statement, and it crystallized for me what I was doing, and so with that, we went from FREE ALABAMA, to FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT.     
Then, I contacted the one person who I knew would support me 100%, because over the years we had worked on so many other projects together and I knew that this would be the culmination of all of our previous work: Kinetik Justice (g.n. Robert Earl Council).  
After I ran down everything to him he said what he always says, “Sun, what you done came up with now?? . . . I can CEE it though. Let’s run it.” And off we went and FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT was officially founded. We haven’t looked back since.
Q: We remember that the FAM first came into view with the work-strike actions inside St Clair. Can you tell us a little more on that please, and how it worked; did you get people to start thinking for themselves and such?

Well, the work strikes, which we call “shutdowns” are the heart of our Movement to end mass incarceration and prison slavery, because the modern Prison Industrialized Complex is an estimated 500 billion dollar enterprise that is financed off of the backs of people who are incarcerated. As most people know, what is taking place within America’s prison system is modern slavery. It’s a hard reality to fathom, yet it is so true.


Starting out, what I did was to evaluate our options, which included litigation, hunger strikes, letter writing campaigns, etc., among others, while at the same time tried to get a better understanding of the system as a whole, and look at the option that gave us the most power to make a change. When I looked at what the men had done in GA, I realized that using labor strikes as a tool of Economic Empowerment gave us our best option and most leverage.

With Alabama’s economy being stagnant and down with the larger economy due to the Recession, I knew that we could have a real impact if we organize around our labor contribution. And with that, I started researching just how much of a contribution we were making to the system. I started with the kitchen here at St. Clair because I used to work for several years at Red Lobster. Using my knowledge from the industry, I realized that in just the kitchen alone, we filled over 60 jobs, with a total labor contribution of approximately 1 million dollars per year. We have people stealing sandwiches just to survive or get a shot of coffee in prison, who were giving the ADOC over 1 million in labor per year. 
All totaled, the ADOC is getting about 2 to 3 billion dollars from us in Alabama. Work release deductions, the value of everything we produce, filing fees, store, incentive packages, co-pays, fees.
When I started showing guys these numbers and putting them in terms and a format that they could understand, it made the organizing that much easier.

Once I started looking at the industries here, and started receiving more input and assistance, the numbers really started adding up. In the chemical plant alone, I was able to show the guys that they were producing 25 million dollars-worth of chemicals each year.

When I would show them invoices and then point at their shoes, or ask what they had in their box, it was an undeniable proposition to ask of them if they were being fairly compensated.

The kicker was the fact that most of us weren’t being released and had no opportunity for release, no matter the sentence. Then, the ADOC helped my cause even further when a popular old-timer, Eddie Neal, was denied parole again after already serving almost 40 years. Mr. Neal had two disciplinary tickets in 40 years, and the last one was in 1996. Guys started accepting what was going on with the parole board — they didn’t care about a clear record, good behavior, education, or anything. They were part of the exploitation-for-labor system. All I had to do was help explain to them what they were seeing. They did the rest.

We have to start being honest with ourselves about our conditions and the fact that we aren’t doing anything about it. Giving money to a lawyer is a pipe dream. Being a mental slave to ignorance, which causes one to be dependent upon a lawyer or a judge to administer justice for a constitutional violation is hype. We have to start looking for ways to create our own opportunities. Developing our own politics. That’s what FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT (and now FREE MISSISSIPPI MOVEMENT) are all about.
Q: On the website of the Free Alabama Movement [freealabamamovement.com], we can view films and photos you made and posted on YouTube about the things you were struggling to improve or get rid of, and this is a powerful means to make clear what you are grieving and what you are up against, right? Is it more effective than grievances (which you no doubt must file in order to be able to go to court, but that is a very difficult way, especially from prison with no income).
Really, as I said, the videos were something that I had envisioned long before I envisioned F.A.M. I
Picture of a sink inside St Clair CF, Alabama, picture: F.A.M.

knew that society had no real idea of what conditions were like in prison, because I see the commentary about us having “air conditioning and eating steaks.” So, initially, the videos were  designed to show people how inhumane conditions in prison were.


As I spent more time in prison, certain things started to stick out to me: mainly how the ADOC lies and controls the narrative about prisons through a media that is denied access to the prisons, and that the media is force-fed a narrative that they weren’t questioning.

When officers assault the men (and women), we were faulted. When conditions were complained about or lawsuits filed, the ADOC “lied or denied.” So, I was determined to change that narrative. But then, in 2012, I finally stumbled across the Dec  9, 2010, actions in GA, and the two things that stuck out the most to me were: (1) they were ostracized in the media, and (2), they were beaten after their peaceful shutdown. The GDOC accused them of all types of false motives, and then went in after the fact and brutalized them. I knew that I had to document all of our grievances and produce proof for the public of why we were protesting. I was not going to allow ADOC to control the narrative in the media about our legitimate complaints.

Website front of the Free Alabama Movement

After getting some guys to overcome their fears of repercussions for going on camera, something unexpected happened: the Men began to open up about our conditions in ways that they never had before. It sparked conversation, opened up debates, and it revealed to guys the fact that most of us had NEVER been heard before about our circumstances, our cases, or our desires to be free, to be fathers, to receive education, etc. No one, prior to F.A.M., had given us that chance to speak in our own words. So guys opened up and gave us something that can never be taken away. For the first time, WE TOLD OUR STORIES, IN OUR OWN WORDS,WITH OUR OWN DIALECTS AND PHRASES. And we posted it all over YouTube, Facebook, and anywhere else we could find a space.

Q: You made connections with people inside MS prisons and now they too are organizing peacefully in a similar way? Please elaborate.
Yes, it is correct that we made connections with people in Mississippi who are organizing FREE MISSISSIPPI MOVEMENT and Non-Violent and Peaceful Protests for Civil and Human Rights. But we have also made contact with people on the inside in Georgia, Virginia, and California, and we have also connected with families and organizations in Florida, Arizona, Texas, Washington, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

In fact, the people in Mississippi, and in particular, a woman named LaShonda Morris, found us because of our media. She was looking for someone to help who was about this work of confronting mass incarceration and prison slavery for real and not just talking. Thankfully, she found FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT, and we have ALL been blessed by her efforts, because she is serious about what she is doing, and she has connected us in ways and with people that we never would have been able to do on our own.


On November 22, 2014, FREE MISSISSIPPI MOVEMENT will host a Rally and Information Session in Jackson, MS, and we are confident that the future is bright for FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT & FREE MISSISSIPPI MOVEMENT UNITED/UMOJA.

Q: On the website for the F.A.M., freealabamamovement.com, you mention that you work in a nonviolent way. Can you tell us why you put emphasis on this, and what you mean with nonviolence?

Well, first and foremost, FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT, and now, FREE MISSISSIPPI MOVEMENT are about Freedom. We are about getting people out of prisons where we are being warehoused, exploited and abused, so that we can return home  to our communities.

But at the same time, we also acknowledge that some of us have made mistakes or have shortcomings that we needed to address, and we want opportunities to correct them so that when we are released, we can be better sons and daughters, better husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, and be assets to our communities.

In addition to our mistakes, we have also been demonized by the media, by police, by prosecutors, and by prison officials, So, we have taken it upon ourselves to demonstrate who were and the changes that we have made.

No one wants violence brought into their communities. People want and need answers to violence, so it is important for us to demonstrate that we are Non-Violent, we are Peaceful. Some people have committed violent crimes, while others have committed crimes that are labeled as violent, but where no one was harmed, while other people have been wrongfully convicted of violent offense. But, whether you are innocent, guilty, mentally ill, or whatever, no one is getting out, and the prison system wants to justify our incarceration by telling society that we are “violent predators,” “killers,” “dangerous gang leaders and drugs dealers,” etc. These labels are applied 20, 25 years after the facts, after change, after maturity, after education, repentance, and after some children have grown from 18 to 43, yet no one can get out because the D.A.’s will still get on T.V. and revert back to a 40-year-old crime and argue that the person 40 years onwards still exists, even though this D.A. has no up-to-date knowledge of who this person is decades later.

So we are taking this platform and we are going to do our interviews to make our presentations to the public. We are going to make our complaints against this system to the public, and then we are going to back that up by demonstrating to the public that we can now address our issues Non-Violently and Peacefully.
Violence is nothing more than a thought process. It is part of a chain of options that human beings arrive at when confronted with a problem. What we have done is that we have educated guys about this chain, and provided them with alternative remedies to solving problems without resorting to violence.

Our Brother Earl “Tyrese” Taylor started a program at St. Clair called Convicts Against Violence, with an emphasis on Education and Mentoring. With this program, we were able to reduce the violence level down to what one might see at a work release, from right here at a maximum security prison.

But the ADOC didn’t want this, so they removed the warden who allowed us to implement this program, and replaced him with a Black warden,  Warden Davenport, and the first and only program he disbanded was C.A.V. Now, 4 1/2 years later, St. Clair has reverted back to one of the most violent prisons in the entire country. This is why F.A.M. stepped in, to again stop this State-engineered violence, and what happened?  Over 5000 Men across the State jumped immediately on board and supported it. The State responded by labelling myself, the co-founder, and F.A.M. as a security threat group. Lol. We have NEVER had a single incident of violence, yet we are a threat. Not to the security, but to the system of mass incarceration, prison slavery, and the exploitation of people.

Go figure, since they attacked F.A.M. and our Non-Violent and Peaceful Movement, 4 men have been murdered in 2014 alone, and the Equal Justice Initiative, led by Bryan Stephenson, has filed a class-action lawsuit and been calling for the removal of Davenport. This lawsuit was not filed against the entire ADOC as is usually the case, but exclusively against “Bloody St. Clair.” So that should tell you how bad things have gotten.

Stopping violence is easy, and we didn’t receive any funding from the ADOC to run our program. But violence pays. 80% of all people who enter ADOC are functionally illiterate. Education teaches better decision making. We can teach that if they didn’t obstruct our efforts. They will claim that they offer schools, but if what they were teaching was working, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

More and more prisons are removing educational programs and replacing them with factories. Some, like Bibb Co., don’t even offer GED classes. We have to organize against this profit motive, because no one is going home so long as we submit to being exploited for labor and living under inhumane conditions that we should be outraged about. We have to return the narrative to Education, Rehabilitation, and Re-Entry Preparedness, because the State narrative has caused too much pain, destroyed too many communities, destroyed too many families, and destroyed too many people who have something of value to offer society — even in the lessons learned from our mistakes.
Q: We also read that you have written a Bill titled ALABAMA’S EDUCATION, REHABILITATION, AND RE-ENTRY PREPAREDNESS BILL.
Can you tell us a little about the background and aims of this Bill? And can outside support help promote it?
Did any politician approach you yet and (how) would you want to work with someone from politics who takes your issues seriously?

Let me answer the second part of your question first. No, we have not approached any politicians, and we have no intentions or desire to. If what we are doing is going to work, we have to make it work ourselves. The men and women have to understand that the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) has created an economy that is bases on Free/Cheap Labor to compete in the global market against cheap manufacturers like China and Indonesia. The problem is that they have incarcerated over 2.5 million people and they have created a system that is TOTALLY dependent upon US. If we stopped working, then their current model of prisons, including private prisons stopped working.

They are now making over 500 Billion dollars off of our labor. They don’t have a way to replace that. People in society don’t work for free. This system was created by politicians, they are the ones getting the kickbacks, they approve the contracts, and they are the ones who invest their pensions into the stocks of these corporations. So, it makes no sense to solicit them. Would you give up a multi-billion dollar enterprise in exchange if you didn’t have to?

The money that they are making off of our labor is the money that they are using to fund their prison budgets. Nationwide, prison budgets total 86 billion dollars, so where is the remaining 414 billion dollars going? Ask the politicians??

If we take our labor off our the table, then the States are left with normal budget intakes to pay for prisons. Believe me, when we take our labor back, only then will prisons get back to Corrections and Rehabilitation. Every system in America will start back giving good-time, and even the Federal Prisons (who started the profit-based model with Unicor) will have to go back to granting parole.    Additionally, we will finally be able to bring political prisoners like Mumia, Iman El Amin, Larry Hoover, Mutulu, and so many more home.

Funny how we “CONTROL” a 1/2 trillion dollar market, but we go to bed hungry at night. Our bill, which we call the “FREEDOM BILL,” will be the model of what prison will look like after we take control of our situation. If they (the State) ever want to see their assembly lines roll again, then our Legislation will be the functional equivalent of a “labor contract.”
No freedom, no labor !!!
Our Bill, as it is titled, will place Education, Rehabilitation, and Re-Entry Preparedness at the forefront of our stay in prison – not free labor. Voting rights will be restored. LWOP and Death Sentences will be repealed, and conjugal visits will be a part of rehabilitation. Also, media will have unfettered access to prisons. With alternative media like VICE, TruthOut and others, everything will be out in the open.

But our Bill won’t just give out a free pass, people will have to “earn” their freedom through completion of a curriculum that will address the needs of the individual. No GED/Diploma: You have to get one. No skill or trade: Gotta get one. No life skills: Time to grow up and learn what it takes to be a man and provide for you family and community.

There will be exceptions, because there are exceptional cases. But the way things work right now, no one knows when they will be released, if they will make parole, or what they can do to guarantee that when they have served sufficient time, addressed their issues, that they will return home to their family. Our  Bill will provide that certainty for most, and it will give that comfort to spouses, children, etc., of when the loved one will return home. They will know, they will be a part of it, and they will be able to engage in activities like family visits, conjugal visits, parenting classes, etc., that will keep families together when a member of the family has made a mistake. If we are producing 500 billion dollars to live with rats, spiders, mold, abusive officers, and serve decades on end, with no end in sight, then surely we can unite and make a stand.

No doubt they can afford to pay us for any labor that we perform. Otherwise, something has to give. If we can clean them up, we can tear them down.
However, we come in Peace.
Q: Can you tell us a little on your support for the women incarcerated in one of the worst prisons in this country, Tutwiler Prison for Women?
Our hearts go out to the women at Tutwiler. I mean, you add all of the issues that go on in prisons that they suffer equal to men, then add on the fact that they are raped by men, assaulted by men, impregnated by men, and forced to have abortions, or forced to give birth. And after 20 years of abuse, only 6 officers prosecuted, with the most time being 6 months. One got 5 days.


F.A.M. organized a Protest Rally at Tutwiler. We created a Facebook-page to support them. I have personally interviewed approximately 25 women who have served time at Tutwiler either online or on my radio show.


Due to the DOJ being inside of Tutwiler, we have not been able to contact them directly. But we support them and they are a part of F.A.M. My plan was to draft a section on Women’s Rights for the FREEDOM BILL, but we never got cooperation from some of the women who had served time at Tutwiler who we connected with. They were too busy to help the women they left behind. I am bitter about that, and I let them know it.

Nevertheless, F.A.M. stands firm in our convictions. We aren’t going anywhere without our Women. If they can’t get speak right now, fine. We will reserve their places until they can.
Q: Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for those inside California’s (and other states’) prisons? Inside its Secure Housing Units (SHU’s)?
To our Brothers and Sisters in California, we say Stand with us and form FREE CALIFORNIA MOVEMENT. The economics of your system is the same as ours. We are all making the same license plates, cleaning the same feces off of the walls, cooking the same scrambled eggs, doing the same electrical work for free. The same people who are investing their pensions in private prisons and mutual funds in Alabama, are the same ones who are investing in California.

Serving 30 years in Alabama is the same 30 years in California. Your influence carries great weight here in the South, It’s time for us to unify across State boundaries because that’s what mass incarceration has done.

These systems can’t function without our labor. They used the drugs to fund the Iran/Contra war. They then used the “war on drugs” to justify mass-incarceration. Then, they turned the prison population into modern slaves. Now, it’s our turn to act. We have to leave the crops in the field. We have to make them turn their assembly lines off. Since they are the ones getting paid, it’s time for them to cook the food, clean the floors, take out the trash, do the maintenance and everything else.

If we are to do any more labor, then we have to state our terms and conditions, and foremost amongst them is that we must be afforded an opportunity to earn our freedom. If we must work, then we must get compensated for our labor. If we must remain here without tearing these walls down, then we must be treated humanely.

My message is not just to the men and women in these solitary holes. I, myself, am in one right now. My message is to the whole 2.5 million victims of mass incarceration and prison slavery. Everyone !!! All of us around the country, let’s just shut down. Wherever you are, just stop working. If you are in solitary confinement, spread the word to those rotating in and out. When they try to lock up those who organize and lead the shutdowns in population, don’t even give up.

Some men can’t survive solitary confinement, and the administration will threaten them if they participate in the shutdowns. So let’s just clog up the cells.

Let’s all just shut down and see how their 500 billion dollar system works without us, and then see if they change their tune about our FREEDOM. EVERYBODY !!! Just shut down.
Thank you Spokesperson Ray for your encouraging and strong, bold and outspoken activism and advocacy!

You can contact the Free Alabama Movement via:

www.Freealabamamovement.com,
Email:
freealabamamovement@gmail.com or freemississippimovement@gmail.com
Facebook group: FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT
Twitter @FREEALAMOVEMENT

FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT, P.O. Box 186, New Market, AL 35761
On YouTube.

March to End Rape, Sexual Assault, and the Exploitation of Women: August 23rd 2014

March at Tutwiler Prison: Rally at State Capitol, Aug. 23rd at 11 AM.

March to End Rape, Sexual Assault, and the Exploitation of Women: August 23rd 2014 11:00 Rally at State Capitol

Melvin Ray placed in solitary in retaliation for Free Alabama Movement / Rally & Vigil April 26th

Received via Email:
Melvin Ray was taken out of his cell and placed in solitary, without clothing or a bed, in retaliation for Free Alabama Movement.
When the oppressed begin to understand their power, begin to speak out and act together, not as victims, but as a majority creating a new world that is theirs in the shell of the old–this is when the powers that be react with violence.  
Right now Melvin Ray, Official Spokesperson of the Free Alabama Movement has been thrown into solitary confinement with no clothes and no bed in retaliation for struggling for the freedom of the thousands of incarcerated people in Alabama and the 3 million people behind bars in the United States today. 
This is NOT acceptable.
Call Warden Carter Davenport (205) 467-6111 and demand he be treated like a human being. Ask to be redirected to the highest person. 
Let’s flood the phone lines. Show ’em that we’re watching! An injury to one is an injury to all!
Get involved:
Background:
More info:
Sample Script:
“Hi, my name is X. I’m inquiring about a colleague (fellow member of a labor union, the IWW) Melvin Ray being held at St. Clair prison. His family reports that he was removed from his cell, stripped naked, and placed into a bare cell without clothes or bed. I want to know if this is true and to ask that he be returned to his original cell, given his clothing and bed back. I also think that these actions are unjust, prison workers involved in the strike or work stoppage should not be retaliated against.” 
Be polite, respectful, but persistent.  You may be asked for your name.  Share whatever you’re comfortable with.
“I called earlier and said pretty much this script, first to the phone operator, who patched me to a sergeant, who then bumped me up to a lieutenant.  They told me they couldn’t tell me anything about Ray’s whereabouts, to call back from 8am to 4pm ET to speak with a captain or warden.  Which I will do.  But, I still think it’s worth calling the prison RIGHT NOW, if you have the time and a phone line, to let the officers know that the union has a fellow worker’s back.”
From the website
April 26:
RALLY and CANDLELIGHT VIGIL  
 
To Support the Non-Violent and Peaceful Protest for Civil and Human Rights for the Men and Women in Alabama’s PRISONS. 
We invite all to attend this event at KELLY INGRAM PARK in Birmingham, Alabama on April 26, 2014, beginning at 3:00 p.m. until 7:00 pm. 
The Candlelight Vigil will begin at 6:50 p.m., as we will light candles for the men and women incarcerated.
We are protesting the mass incarceration and targeting of black youth, sentencing and parole reform, free labor, and long-term incarceration without affording any opportunities for education, rehabilitation, and re-entry programs. 
We will have a copy of our BILL for Education, Rehabilitation and Re-Entry Preparedness, our book, t-shirts, arm bands, and more. 

Message by the Freedom Alabama Movement (FAM): Stop Slave Labor and other Human Rights Violations in Prisons!

This came via email, contact below:

Greetings of Solidarity! Feel free to copy and distro widely in an upcoming publication.
(This was written by a member of the IWW organizing committee.) 

We in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have been approached by a group of hundreds of prisoners in Alabama who are launching a second prison strike this year demanding an end to prisoners as slave labor, the massive overcrowding and horrifying health and human rights violations found in Alabama Prisons, and have put forward legislation for successful rehabilitation and a clear path for earning parole.


These brave men and women of the Free Alabama Movement (FAM) are building on the recent Hunger Strikes in Pelican Bay and the Georgia Prison Strike in 2010, with the aim of building a mass nonviolent movement inside and outside of prisons to earn their freedom, and to end the racist, capitalist system of mass incarceration called The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and others.


The conditions in Alabama prisons are horrendous, packing twice as many people as are meant to be there, with everything from black mold, brown water, cancer causing foods, and general disrepair. They are also run by free, slave labor, with 10,000 people working to maintain the prisons daily, adding up to $600,000 dollars a day or $219,000,000 a year of slave labor if inmates were paid federal minimum wage, and tens of thousands more receiving mere dollars a day making products sold by the state or to private corporations.


While unique in some ways, the struggle of these brave human beings is the same as prisoners around the country, and the millions of black, brown, and working class women and men struggling to survive a system they are not meant to succeed within. These prisoners need your support, and for you to help spread the struggle.


To do so the Free Alabama Movement along with the IWW’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee is asking for the following:


1) For the creation of Prisoner Solidarity Committees in their local areas to raise money, attract media attention, and spread the word of this struggle to local prisons

2) Amplify the voices of prisoners by posting this and future updates to your website, facebook, sharing it to your email list, or with your contacts in prison

3) Join our email list so as to be kept up to date and amplify future updates

4) Donate money to the Free Alabama Movement and the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee at ??


The IWW is a grassroots revolutionary union open to all working people, including the incarcerated and the unemployed. Founded in 1905, we have gained reputation in recent years for struggles at Starbucks, Jimmy Johns, and the General Strike call during the Wisconsin Uprising. We are committed to amplifying the voices of prisoners, ending an economic system based on exploitation and racial caste systems like mass incarceration, and adding our contribution to the global movements for a just, free, and sustainable world. 

Website: Freealabamamovement.com
Facebook page
Twitter: @FREEALABAMAMOVE

State of Alabama Executes Derrick Mason Even Though Sentencing Judge Admits His Death Sentence Was a Mistake

September 22, 2011
From: Equal Justice Institute

The State of Alabama executed Derrick Mason today even though the sentencing judge who condemned him to die admitted his judgment was a mistake, born of his own inexperience and that of Mr. Mason’s trial lawyers.

Madison County Circuit Judge Loyd H. Little, Jr., asked Alabama Governor Robert Bentley to commute to life imprisonment without parole the death sentence Judge Little had imposed on Derrick Mason. In a letter to the governor, Judge Little admitted his own lack of experience led him to impose the wrong sentence in Mr. Mason’s case – his first capital trial.

The judge also attributed the erroneous sentence to Mr. Mason’s appointed trial lawyers’ lack of experience. A brother and sister team who each had less than five years of experience and had never before participated in a trial, Mr. Mason’s lawyers failed to present evidence that Mr. Mason was under the influence of drugs known to induce hallucinations and psychosis at the time of the crime. They also failed to present evidence about Mr. Mason’s past struggles with drug addiction, mental health problems, and that he was the victim of physical and sexual abuse.

If they had effectively presented mitigating evidence about Derrick Mason’s age (19), mental health issues, and lack of significant criminal record, Judge Little wrote, it would have changed the jury’s vote and Judge Little’s sentence.

Judge Little’s letter also shows that the prosecutor’s reliance on illegal hearsay evidence to obtain the death penalty in this case should have resulted in a new sentencing hearing for Mr. Mason. In 2010, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the State violated Mr. Mason’s right to confront witnesses against him when it introduced a statement from an unidentified informant that Derrick Mason committed the murder because he was “out of control” and was “trying to make a name for himself.”

The Eleventh Circuit did not grant Mr. Mason a new trial because it found that the illegal evidence did not impact the decision to sentence Mr. Mason to death. Since that decision, however, Judge Little has conceded that the evidence in the case case does not support the death penalty.

Mr. Mason is black and the victim in this case is white. The Madison County District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted Mr. Mason, has discriminated against African Americans during jury selection in other capital cases. In Mr. Mason’s case, lawyers asked the Alabama Supreme Court to stay his execution because the prosecutor engaged in similar conduct at his trial. The court refused to do so this morning.

Governor Bentley denied Judge Little’s request to commute Derrick Mason’s sentence to life imprisonment without parole yesterday. He is the fifth person put to death by the State of Alabama this year.

Alabama is the only state in the country without a state-funded program to provide legal assistance to death row prisoners and has the nation’s highest per capita death sentencing and execution rates.

Birmingham News Editorial: Gov. Robert Bentley Should Commute Death Sentence of Derrick O’Neal Mason, as Judge Who Presided Over Mason’s Case Suggests

Reuters: U.S. set for Third Execution This Week, in Alabama

Letter to Governor Bentley from Judge Little

Petition for Stay of Execution

Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People’s Movement Arises!

From an email:
http://unprison.wordpress.com/

Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People’s Movement Arises!
Posted on March 21, 2011 by Bruce Reilly

Alabama represents the answer to a clarion call. This is a call that
speaks to us in our own voice; clear, loud and urgent. A voice that
speaks to our identity and emanates from the soul, ringing true both
in the head and the heart. Our objective is a collective one,
continuing in that vein, as we gathered fifty people from across the
nation to engage in a conversation about the need to build a Formerly
Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement. We understand and
declare very clearly: the criminal justice system does NOT work. It
is no more than a destructive force in our communities now and for
future generations.

Fifty formerly incarcerated and convicted organizers came with a
dedication and commitment stating that this was our time. We were not
deterred by our inability to raise the entire budget to fly, feed and
house people in Alabama for three days, nor were the few dozen
supporters who found their own means to be present for this historic
moment. As activists, we have been to our share of conferences and
rallies, yet before many of us left our homes, we knew this invitation
was different. And we readily subsidized our own fight for
restoration of our own civil and human rights.

The first exercise was to introduce ourselves to each other not simply
by our names or the many great struggles that we were currently
engaged in, but by who we embraced as our heroes. We wrote our names
and the name of our hero on a piece of paper and we taped those to the
front of the table where we sat. We were quickly able to see the
right people were in the room. We participated in designing a
historical time line and this practice drew us closer to discovering
our common history, something uniquely ours as incarcerated, formerly
incarcerated and convicted people. Knowing where we came from made it
easier to find our vision. We agreed to accept as our vision “The
Fight for the Full Restoration of Our Civil and Human Rights.”

The concept and construction of a movement requires a vessel large
enough to hold us all, and steering a vessel of this scale requires a
crew of many navigators and leaders. Agreeing on a vision was an
essential and amazing accomplishment in light of the fact that time
was short, and with so many leaders in the room egos could easily have
gotten in the way. We agreed to maintain the structure that propelled
us to this point. However, we needed to enlarge the steering
committee to seriously consider setting a national agenda. Twenty
people volunteered to join the steering committee, providing us
greater diversity in both geography and gender. We decided we would
do regular conference calls to move forward with the agenda and
coordinating the Los Angeles convening.

The Steering Committee planned to kick off the beginning of this
Movement by walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in Selma. Days
before any of us hopped in a plane, bus, train, or car, we were
informed that we would have stay on the sidewalk if we were going to
march across the bridge. Over 247 people called the mayor of Selma
and let him know we were coming to march over the bridge, and not on
the sidewalk. Some of us consciously considered going to jail again,
and some of us even emptied our bank accounts just in case we needed
bail. We didn’t anticipate Mayor George Evans of Selma would ask to
speak with us after our march, or agree to read our statement at the
46-year Jubilee marking Bloody Sunday. Nor did we anticipate that our
march across the bridge would be headlines on one of the largest
papers in Alabama, with over twenty photos online. Our own Tina
Reynolds was photographed carrying a sign proclaiming that “Democracy
Starts At Home.” We should be allowed to vote and exercise our civil
rights regardless of where we live in the United States.

Our visit to the state capital in Montgomery is a testament to the
power of unity. While standing on the stairs of the Capital building
we were introduced to, and had a short conversation with, Alabama
Chief Justice Sue Cobb-Bell. The Chief Justice explained the serious
effort underway to rewrite the criminal code and reduce the prison
population by 3,000. Once inside, we were led into a conference room
where we met Rep. John Rogers, the head of the Alabama Black Caucus.
After a spirited discussion about pressing issues, we were ultimately
promised a community forum of which we would take part in choosing the
community organizations to participate. We were also promised that
key elected officials, including the governor, would be present at the
forum.

We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the work and support that
our host organization, The Ordinary People Society (TOPS), put into
our initial organizing. On a side note: TOPS was seriously respected
by prominent members of the Alabama legislature, who pledged their
support to this struggle, and prominent officials in both Selma and
Montgomery. Meanwhile, our Allies were honing their own efforts, such
as supporting those organizations on our side (and inspiring those who
should be), and creating more spaces for our voices to be heard. They
are committed to recognizing our priorities and helping us create the
tools for our organizing efforts.

Last but not least, we want to thank everyone who attended and wrapped
their heads around the bigger picture of Movement and a larger
agenda. As a collective we all committed to something bigger than
each of our own organizations or individual work. We took action and
decided to organize through Regions represented by our expanded
Steering Committee. Regional caucuses will facilitate closer
collaboration in our areas, and we will build a movement on one
accord, as a collective committed to “The Fight for Full Restoration
of our Civil and Human Rights”. Let us keep moving forward, and share
this document with people we believe should know and participate in
our common efforts to build a Movement. Let people know about the
goal to meet in Los Angeles- November 2nd, 2011.

We have recognized these dates/weeks for actions, meetings, and
solidarity. We call on our members to take part in order to raise our
capacity, profile, and build a Movement:
March 29th
April 23rd
May 21st (Riverside Church), May 28th (Solidarity w/ Georgia Prison
Strike)
June 17th (40th Anniversary of Drug War)
Aug. 21st (40th Anniversary of San Quentin Uprising)
Sept. 29th (40th Anniversary of Attica Rebellion).

On June 23rd-26th is the Allied Media Conference in Detroit. There is
an entire track of workshops focused on the Prison Industrial Complex,
and members of the FICPM will be participating. This is an excellent
opportunity for those who can attend.

Sincerely,
Formerly Incarcerated & Convicted People’s Movement Steering Committee