Incarcerated people in Alabama prisons have stopped participating in work assignments to protest inhumane conditions, according to The Associated Press and Insider.
Swift Justice, who is incarcerated at the Fountain Correctional Facility in Atmore, alleges that the Alabama Department of Corrections does not rehabilitate incarcerated people as it ought to.
“I’m just a slave. I’m inside the prison system,” Justice said.
As the Marshall Project reports, incarcerated people can be required to cook, clean and do laundry. They can also be required to work non-prison related positions like call centers.
Alabama’s prisons are characterized by trying conditions and overcrowding, according to Insider. Recently thousands of detainees at the state’s 15 prisons have stopped working in response to conditions and policies, Insider reported Oct. 2.
Since Sept. 26, prison staff has had to perform work formerly done by the incarcerated, the story said.
Detainees are requesting that sentencing and parole measures be reexamined— including invalidating habitual offender regulations, and laying out and keeping up with fair parole rules. Both Sides of the Wall, a prison reform organization, coordinated the strike and recently held protests over current conditions at Alabama prisons.
Swift says their demands could ease the burden on the system by releasing those who have served their time. According to the ACLU, approximately 90% of parole requests are denied in Alabama, as the arrival of new inmates worsens poor conditions in the already crowded prisons.
“Those who participated in this historical event are tired of being treated as less than animals and are demanding their humanity back,” Swift told Insider.
Doing time in Alabama’s prison system is akin to capital punishment, according to Christina McGee, whose spouse is imprisoned in the state.
“These people have no chance of rehabilitation,” McGee told Insider. She also alleged that detainees are more likely to “wind up in a body bag,” than be released. “Because Alabama Department of Corrections, no matter what your sentence is, has become a death sentence automatically. These people have no chance of doing anything and they’ve given up hope.”
Diyawn Caldwell, another coordinator of the strike whose spouse is imprisoned, sent recordings to Insider allegedly showing conditions in state prisons. One video showed guards pursuing and beating a cuffed prisoner at the St. Clair Remedial Facility in Springville. Another showed a flooding cell at St. Clair with a prisoner saying, “second day my shit been like this, man. Goddamn pipe bust.”
According to Justice, Alabama prisoners have faced retaliation for striking, including Justice’s mentor, Kinetic Justice, who had been beaten by officers and sent to solitary confinement for his involvement with the strike and detainees, reported Insider.
Justice also said that prisoners in his prison are being “bird fed” two meals per day, with both meals amounting to less than 1,000 calories.
The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in 2020 against the State of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Corrections, alleging constitutional violations, including infringement of the Eighth Amendment’s protection against cruel and unusual punishment, AP noted Sept. 29.
The DOJ deemed the prison system overcrowded at 182% capacity, with a high incidence of rapes and killings. A representative for Gov. Kay Ivey’s office said the detainees’ requests “are absurd and would absolutely not be invited in Alabama.”
Strike coordinators say they see no foreseeable endgame. “Their constitutional rights are being violated daily and no one’s doing anything about it. We’re standing up and we’re letting them know. They’re standing up and letting them know ‘We will no longer tolerate the system as it is,’” Caldwell said.