Just got a call from an inmate/friend in the faith dorm in Ventress Correctional Facility. They had a stabbing. This has not hit the media yet. Supposedly, one guy bled out before the Lifeflight arrived. They say it is getting worse by the day. The CERT team or “Goon squad” is there shaking down with the Sheriff trying to find the knives. Evidently there were a couple of free world knives in there. 3 officers have given up their keys and quit. He wanted to get this to me in case something happens to him. I guess this goes along with Judge Cobb’s post of trying to get the Governor to step up and release folks. We actually have a solution to protect public safety and allow inmates a safe release at a fraction of the cost. I have a mobile app called ARComply and also an electronic monitoring bracelet system which we are using with various judges and offenders. Actually, there is a law on the books that all you attorneys who are my Facebook friend need to be filing habeas corpus or certiorari’s on sect. 15-22-26.2 which states that inmates can or “SHALL” be released up to 24 months early to their EOS or end of sentence dates as long as they are on intense supervision with Alabama Bureau of Pardons & Paroles–it does say “SHALL” so it is not a review process and I have let the Commissioner know but due to the COVID-19 scare, it seems ADOC is not doing anything right now.
Yesterday, al.com published an article asking what will Alabama do with all of the bodies that die from coronavirus? Here in Alabama, FAM is organizing in efforts to save lives behind these lines. Late yesterday evening, FAM put out a request for assistance to one of our important organiners whose voice has been cut off from the Movement. We ask those who profess to support those on the inside to do just that. Help us lift our own voices . . . Not use us to lift yours !!
FAM is requesting assistance for an important activist inside the Alabama prison system whose voice we cannot afford to have silenced from the Movement during this crucial time that we are in the midst of confronting the COVID 19 virus pandemic.
We need to raise $200.00 to assist our brother in getting his voice back connected to our conference calls and other critical conversations being had by inside organizers. If you can contribute any amount toward this request, please donate to our CashApp ( CashApp only) at:
“all individuals” within ADOC who have been in direct contact with the positive case are now in “self-quarantine for a 14-day period.”
This statement from ADOC is a lie. . .
The mental health office is located inside of the infirmary. This means that those individuals who were scheduled for a mental health appointment had to go to the infirmary. In addition, those individuals in the infirmary who are already on the sick ward were exposed every day as well as those who were scheduled for medical screening, testing appointments, etc. This means that both direct and indirect contact traffic has happened throughout the prison. These people are lying. . .
A mental health worker at St. Clair prison tested positive for the COVID 19 virus last week. As is now, we don’t know many mental health patients she came into contact with. What we do know is that no testing has been done. Also, we know that two additional correctional officers have taken off and that one nurse exhibited symptoms but ultimately tested negative. So far, no testing has been done. ADOC is conducting temperature checks for officers entering the prison for each shift but no such testing is being down for those incarcerated. Also, while several officers have been seen sporting protective masks and gloves, no protection of any kind is being offered to the incarcerated population.
In addition, we are unaware of the impact that this positive test has had on the surrounding community, as ADOC staff routinely stop as convenience stores and local businesses prior to reporting to work. We don’t know if ADOC has alerted local establishment that this mental health worker may have visited. We will update this post as further details emerge as well as update actions that are being planned to protect the lives of everyone potentially effected by this situation.
With news of the closing of Holman prison after many years of civil and human rights violations caused by overflowing raw sewage, lack of clean running water, and many other structural issues, many of the men incarcerated there and their families are anxious about where their loved ones will be transferred to and how they will be impacted by these changes. These men will be adjusting to new locations and new environments, as will the men at the prisons where these 600 individuals will be arriving at.
Many are pondering how this influx of more bodies will affect the already distressed and overcrowded prison system. Also, there are unique challenges and psychological issues that will have to be factored into this process. One, for example, is the fact that Holman was an open-bay style prison, where there was no restraint of movement in the living quarters. Now, these men will be housed in prisons with cells that they will now have to share with another person, sometimes for days at a time. This will increase anxiety and tension, with results that we won’t know about for some time. Many of these men from Holman who have been locked up for a long time have never shared a cell with another human being. This will be a major adjustment for many.
Another concern that some have expressed is the question of violence. As in, what is the ADOC’s plan to address issues that arise when men come into contact with people they have not seen in a while but have unresolved beefs with? What type of indicators will the ADOC be looking for to get out in front of issues instead of being reactive to them? The ADOC already can’t address violence caused by overcrowding and limited resources. What are they going to do when an already crowded system becomes even more crowded? Finally, who is going to be held accountable if this plan doesn’t work?
For the people from the southern part of the State, many families will now have to travel to Donaldson or St. Clair or even Limestone to visit their loved ones. This will pose an additional strain and financial burden on families who can least afford it. Men who had become accustomed to regular visits, which helps with rehabilitation and staying connected to family, will now be dealing with this additional frustration. With visitation and communication with family being a proven means of effective rehabilitation, the impact of separation is not going to be easy to detect.
The Prison Study Group also released its recommendations right after the announcement of this closure. Many people feel as though this closure was done with very little foresight into the impact that this abrupt change will have on the issues currently affecting Alabama prisons.
Also, the fact that the Study Group’s report was not done in anticipation of these new developments appears to render the report as just another waste of taxpayer funds.
In addition, the Study Group report was anticlimactic to the people on the inside who were looking for change and real solutions. Again, though, the report made clear that the solutions will have to come from the Inside — the one segment that was excluded from the process.
In the short term, it’s too early to tell what the full impact will be. With reports of beds being erected in gymnasiums, which will reduce recreation time, the prospects for heightened tensions are a realistic expectation. The organizations and individuals who are leading the calls for change to the ADOC have to become more hands on and reiterate their demands for access to the people on the inside of these prisons. If overcrowding caused the infrastructure of Holman to wear down, then this move seems calculated to tear down more infrastructure in order to justify building news prisons.
We will be updating on this concern as it develops with the hope that the men are wise enough to turn this into a positive opportunity to be heard now that there is one less prison that has to be reached in order to organize for change.
The Gadsden 6. Clockwise from Top Left to Right: Roland Martin, Melvin Ray (Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun), Fred Brown, Steven Stewart, Curtis Richardson (not pictured) and Archie Hamlet.
On March 24, 1988, at appx. 1:00 am, these six Black men were arrested in Gadsden, Alabama, for the burglary of a Belk Hudson department store. At the time, we were all 16 years of age or younger, and considered children by Alabama law.
After our arrest, we were taken to the police precinct, where we would be questioned for several hours, without any attorneys being present and without any of our parents being notified of where we were or what was going on.
When the interrogation ended around 4:00 am, the police officers, appx. four to six, all white, were satifised that we could be charged with over 30 felony counts of burglary and theft offense, not only for the burglary of that night but for several other unsolved burglaries as well.
Later that same morning of March 24, after spending a few more hours being processed into the youth facility, we were hauled into court for what was supposed to have been an initial appearance hearing. The only adults present for this hearing were the judge, the prosecutor, several of the police officers, and a case worker.
What transpired next . . .
Once in the courtroom, we were supposed to have a what in Alabama is called an “initial appearance” hearing where we received an explanation of the charges against us and be informed of our rights, including the right to have attorneys and to have our parents present with us in court to contest the charges.
Instead, something else happened that would affect us for the rest of their life.
The judge, prosecutor and the police held a private conference outside of our presence and beyond our ability to hear what was going on. When they adjourned, the prosecutor and the judge did all of the talking. The prosecutor stated that there would be a “stipulation” or admission of probable cause by the state in behalf of all six of us — to all 30-plus charges. The police officer concurred. The judge then stated that he accepted the stipulation and entered the stipulation into the official record of the court. We never spoke. Never knew what the word “stipulation” meant of what was going on.
This stipulation is extremely unethical and highly unusual. First and foremost, no one, not a judge, prosecutor, or police officer can stipulate to a criminal charge for anyone on their first appearance in court. And even worse, this was done to children who did not have attorneys and whose parents were never notified and were not present.
The imagery of this scene and how these adults committed these acts against these children is undeniable: A white judge. White prosecutor. All white police officers. Both case workers white. The only Black face in the room were those of six children. We were not viewed as children but as feeder stock for the system of Mass Incarceration. With the stipulation, we could now be transferred to adult court where we could receive real felony convictions and all of the disabilities that come with that.
It hard to imagine that in a period of just a few short hours, six children could be arrested, interrogated for over three hours by a group of all- white police detectives, charged with over 30 felony offenses, and then taken into a courtroom without an attorney or even a parent present, only to have the prosecutor and police make an admission of guilt for them, which a judge then dutifully accepts before ordering the children detained.
After this stipulation was made, all six of us would ultimately be transferred to adult court were we would suffer convictions that would be with us for the rest of our lives. The problem is that we never should have been in adult court in the first place. The proceedings in juvenile court were illegal and unethical. Today, we are fighting for the justice that we were entitled to in 1988.
Join the fight for Justice for The Gadsden 6 as we demand that the judgement and orders issued by Juvenile Judge Robert E. Lewis and the actions of the prosecutor be declared unconstitutional and void. The record of these convictions still stand today, and they must be corrected.