Beth Shelburne Interview with Willie J. Simmons – Sentenced to Life for 9 dollar robbery

WILLIE J. SIMMONS, 62 years old. 37 years in prison. LWOP. $9.00 robbery.

By Beth Shelburne

Today I talked to Willie Simmons, who has spent the last 38 years in prison for stealing $9. He was convicted of 1st degree robbery & sentenced to life without parole in 1982, prosecuted under Alabama’s habitual offender law because he had 3 prior convictions. He told me his priors were 1 grand larceny and 2 receiving stolen property. I could only locate the grand larceny from 1979, but court records in Alabama are spotty. He did a year in prison for that conviction, and thinks he did about the same for the other crimes. “But I really can’t remember,” he said.

Mr. Simmons was 25 when the state said he should die in prison. Today he’s 62. When I asked his age he paused & laughed. “Been so long since somebody asked me that,” he said. He hasn’t had a visitor since 2005 after his sister died. “Haven’t heard from nobody since then.”

Mr. Simmons is incarcerated at Holman, one of the most violent prisons in the country. He is studying for his GED and “tries to stay away from the wild bunch.” He got sober in prison 18 years ago, despite being surrounded by drugs. “I just talked to God about it,” he said. Mr. Simmons told me he was high on drugs when he committed the crime that landed him in prison for life. He wrestled a man to the ground and stole his wallet which contained $9. “I was just trying to get me a quick fix,” he said. Police arrested him a few blocks away. He remembers his trial lasting 25 minutes and his appointed attorney calling no witnesses. Prosecutors did not offer him a plea deal, even though all of his prior offenses were nonviolent. “They kept saying we’ll do our best to keep you off the streets for good,” he said.

Mr. Simmons told me he grew up poor in Enterprise, Alabama. He started using drugs in high school, but dropped out at age 16. “It was real bad,” he said about his drug use. He was using hard drugs when he committed his crimes. “It was all stupid. I was messed up.”

Over the years, he’s filed appeal after appeal, with no lawyer. All were denied. “In a place like this, it can feel like you’re standing all alone,” he told me. “I ain’t got nobody on the outside to call and talk to. Sometimes I feel like I’m lost in outer space.”

“My hope is to get out of here, settle down with a woman and do God’s will,” he continued. “I’d like to tell people about how bad drugs are.” Mr. Simmons said he sees men doing drugs all the time in prison, but he stays away. He hasn’t gotten a disciplinary citation in a decade.

In 2014, lawmakers removed the last avenue of appeal for people like Mr. Simmons serving life without parole under the habitual offender law. I asked if he had hope that leaders would reconsider that. “Yes, I’ve been hoping and praying on it,” he said. “I ain’t giving up.”

Mr. Simmons did not deny his crimes & I am not writing this to argue that he’s innocent. He has paid for his crimes with his entire adult life, cast away like he wasn’t worth redemption. It sickens me to think about how many other people are warehoused in prison, forgotten. When tough on crime people say everyone in prison deserves to be there, think of Mr. Simmons. We should be ashamed of laws that categorically throw people away in the name of safety. We should question anyone who supports Alabama’s habitual offender law. It needs to go.


You can write to Mr Simmons at:

WILLIE JUNIOR SIMMONS AIS: 00112862
A Dorm, Bed 57
3700 Holman Unit
Atmore, AL 36503-3700

Don’t forget to add your return address (that is the prison policy) in the top left corner of your envelope, thank you.

EMERGENCY ALERT: Another Violent Death Being Reported by U.V. at Elmore CF


Unfortunately, we are receiving word of yet another stabbing death at Elmore CF. Elmore has already had one stabbing death this month and another in the complex at Staton. As these deaths continue to pile up, ADOC officials focus their attention on dollars over life.

As the death toll continues to rise, there have been no fundamental changes to the culture of ADOC. Efforts to save lives must be expedited because, in the eyes of the ADOC, bodies are replaceable.

 

Another Death in ADOC: No Statement from ADOC Spokesperson 

We are receiving word of a stabbing death at Staton CF. According to the report, the deceased had been stabbed twice in a two week period.

“Inmate stabbed to death at Staton. Second time same inmate been stabbed in less than 2 weeks.”

The ADOC has stopped reporting on violence incidents as they try to extort $800 million from taxpayers for new prisons. Not a single one of the “human rights” orgs have ever filed a wrongful death action against the ADOC for damages. All they want is attorneys fees.

We will not allow these deaths to be swept under the rug.

#incarceratedlivesmatter

 

FREEDOM TOUR 2016 Donaldson CF

Support Free Alabama Movement and the Freedom Tour 2016 as we engage in more protests against #blackgenocide and #endprisonslavery2016.

We will be in Dothan on September 7 and Donaldson on September 10th. Confirm your attendance on FB.

 https://www.facebook.com/events/1187755704599243/?ti=cl

Alabama prison carrying our racist psychological experimental program at Donaldson prison predominately against African American men

The experiment with the “behavior modification” dorm at Donaldson CF in Alabama continues. Hearkening back to the Tuskegee Experiment and other forms of medical torture that have taken place in Alabama against predominately African Americans, the Alabama prison system is again violating basic civil and human rights in the name of corrections by conducting a “behavior modification” experimental program and using over 80% African American men, including many who don’t have any behavior problems.

Over the past two weeks, the Alabama Department of Corrections has been going to other lower level prisons around the State and snatching up African American men and transferring them to Donaldson CF and placing them into a new experimental program called the “behavior modification” program. The first problem is, most — if not all — of these African American men came from general population at other prisons with no behavior records warranting their transfer.

Once in this program, all of their rights and privileges are curtailed. Among the most egregious violations has been the denial of showers for six consecutive days and counting, no personal or legal property, denial of all mail, books, and reading material, no visitation with family, and no paperwork or written explanation explaining why they are being placed into a “behavior modification” program; all while housed two to a cell.

Many of these men have such exemplary records that they qualified for an incentive package at their former prison, only to arrive at Donaldson to have their packages taken from them. In order to qualify for an incentive package, one must have 6 months disciplinary free records for non-violent rules violations and 1 year disciplinary free for violent disciplinary. Some of these men have multiple years of disciplinary free records, while others have never have any prior violent records.

They are forced to eat, sleep, defecate, and urinate with another person in the cell at all times. These cells don’t have a table to eat on, and if one or the other cellmates is defecating when a meal is being served, both of their trays are passed into the cell anyway. And, because they are being denied recreation time, they are locked down 24 hours every day in a two-man cell. Also of note is that the ADOC elected to start this experimental program in the heat of the Summer.

Again, the majority of these men, came from the general population at other prisons. Most of them have disciplinary free files, yet they are being placed into a behavior modification program. Some of them have level 4 custody for a medium security prison, yet they were transferred to a level 6 maximum security prison, which is the highest level prison in Alabama, and placed on total lockdown.

In fact, these men were placed into this experimental program before a S.O.P. manual was complete on how this program would be ran or what the criteria would be to place someone in this program.

If the majority of these African American men don’t have any disciplinary records to justify their placement into this program, and all of them came from general population at other lower level prisons and have lower custody classification status, why are they being placed into this experimental  “behavior modification” program? The answer seems quite simple: because this racist experimental programs was designed to be tested on and carried out disproportionately against African American men.

This is the same model that was used in the Georgia prison system.

The Georgia Department of Corrections hired a retired military officer to run their prison system, and he began a “behavior modification ” program that employs these same enhanced torture tactics that were first tested and used by the US military in Abu Gharib prison in Iraq. Alabama has now followed suit by hiring a retired military officer to run the Alabama Department of Corrections, and the new Commissioner is now implementing the exact same “behavior modification” program in Alabama. Georgia tested their program on mostly African American men also.

Please help us bring awareness to this racist and illegal experimental program at Donaldson CF and protest against its continuous by doing the following:

1) Join our media campaign to help expose this program and the fact that African Amwrican men in Alabama prisons are being targeted and placed into an experimental psychological torture “behavior program” even though the vast majority of them don’t have any behavior citations.

2) Contact Commissioner Jeff Dunn, Sen. Cam Ward, Governor Robert Bentley and the Civil Rights Division of the US Dept of Justice, and file a complaint and demand to know why this experimental program is being carried out exclusively against African American men.

3) Join FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT,  MOTHERS AND FAMILIES,  THE ORDINARY PEOPLE SOCIETY, and IWOC as we plan to organize protests at Donaldson CF against this racist and illegal experimental program.

4) Contact the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners and file a complaint against any medical/psychology professional for engaging in experimental psychological practices and mental torture against African American men incarcerated at Donaldson prison.

Press Release: February 1 Protest To Highlight Inhumane Conditions In Alabama Prisons

Free Alabama Movement

*For Immediate Release*

January 26, 2015
Contact: Ann Brooks (256)783-1044

Press Release
February 1 Protest To Highlight Inhumane Conditions In Alabama Prisons

(Springville, Ala.) – Demanding an end to the filthy living conditions on Alabama’s death row and “a culture of violence” carried out by officials throughout the state’s maximum security prisons, families and friends of the men, women and children who are incarcerated in Alabama prisons will hold a peaceful protest on Sunday, Feb. 1.

Sponsored by the Free Alabama Movement (FAM), the protest will begin at 11:30 a.m.in front of the St. Clair Correctional Facility (SCCF), located at 1000 St. Clair Road in Springville.

FAM was started by men in Alabama state prisons to expose “the deplorable conditions and the slave labor inside the cement walls” of the state’s prisons. FAM has posted videos on You Tube in which over 80 men who are incarcerated in the Alabama Department of Corrections give their personal accounts about the inhumane living conditions they endure in Alabama prisons.

Three Alabama maximum security prisons, St. Clair CF, Holman Correctional Facility, and Donaldson Correctional Facility, all went on lockdown at some point in the past 10 days due to violent-related incidents.

Men and women are confined to their 8 by 12 foot cells 24 hours a day during lockdowns, and their family members
and friends cannot visit them.

On Jan. 25, several men on death row at Holman held a peaceful protest. Holman officials have denied these men use of equipment to clean their cells, and these men are being forced to eat cold sack lunches three times
a day. “We are human beings. Just because we’re on death row doesn’t mean that we have to live like animals,” said one death row inmate. The guards used pepper spray to punish the peaceful protesters in the segregation unit at Holman who were also protesting the inhumane living conditions.

SCCF has turned into one of the most dangerous prisons in America, according to the FAM. The prison’s warden, Carter Davenport was previously suspended in 2012 for assaulting a man confined at St. Clair in the head while he was handcuffed.

Riot police have been called in at SCCF, according to FAM. In the last two weeks, there have been at least 20 incidents in which people were stabbed or assaulted by an officer,  at SCCF. Prisoner Jarvis “Flame” Jenkins was beaten twice by guards and was seen with blood dripping from his clothes. Another SCCF prisoner, Derrick LaKeith Brown, has been hospitalized with injuries for a week.

Prison officials Warden Walter Myers and Captain Darryl Fails, and others, removed  James Pleasant from his cell at Holman on January 23, 2015, and told him that he, Robert E. Council (Holman) and Melvin Ray (St. Clair), known as the FAM 3, were problems to the ADOC and threatened to kill them for exposing inhumane and illegal conditions inside Alabama prisons.

FAM has been organizing Non-Violent and Peaceful Protests throughout the ADOC since January 1, 2015, when over a three week perios, over 4500 men participated in the demonstrated, which were supported by their families, friends, loved ones, and supporters nationwide.

For more information, call Ann Brooks at (256)783-1044.


UPDATED: On January 27, 2015, St. Clair CF went back on lockdown, where the overcrowding and lack of leadership from Warden Carter Davenport continues to cause a violent atmosphere.

THE MOVEMENT IS MOVING: Are You Standing Still Or In Kinetik Motion? By Kinetik Justice Amun

By Kinetik Justice Amun

When you proclaim to be or you’re striving to be RIGHTEOUS and you see something thats not RIGHT & EXACT you have 2 options- You either do something about it or You support those that are doing something about it. If you see something wrong and choose neither one of those options- you’re plastic and when the FLAME gets turned up, you’ll melt and puddle like snow. FREE THE FAM 3! UHURU AU KIFO

By Kinetik Justice Amun

The willful denial and intentional deprivation of the Human & Civil Rights of one person is WRONG. The systematic denial and institualized deprivation of over 52,OOO peoples Human & Civil Rights is PURE EVIL. To Stand Up to and Challenge such a System is to commit yourself to a Righteous Cause. FREE ALABAMA FREE MISSISSIPPI UNITED – THE MOVEMENT IS A RIGHTEOUS CAUSE. So link up and join us as we fight for the FREEDOM JUSTICE & HUMANE TREATMENT OF OVER 52,OOO HUMAN BEINGS.

Free Alabama Movement Blasts Racial Make-Up…

…of Governor Bentley’s and Sen. Cam Ward’s Prison Reform Task Force and The Council of State Governments: Cites National Report that Debunks CSG and their Justice Reinvestment Initiative program

On June 10, 2014, Governor Robert Bentley, surrounded by Sen. Cam Ward, Commissioner Kim Thomas, Chief Justice Roy Moore and others, announced the formation of Alabama’s 25-member Prison Reform Task Force and a AM17375-2partnership with the Council of State Governments (CSG), to address longstanding and nationally publicized issues that affect Alabama’s prison system.

According to Gov. Bentley, the solution to Alabama’s prison woes, which include a nation-leading 200% occupancy rate that has led to extreme overcrowding, excessive violence including 4 murders in 2014 already at St. Clair prison, least-in-the-nation investments in education, rehabilitation and corrections, high recidivism, widespread diseases like Staph, TB, STD’S, Hepatitis, scabies, and others, over-targeting of Black men (Black men make up only 14% of Alabama’s total population, but 62% of the prison population) and understaffing, among other issues, can be found in the CSG’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI).

FAMpluslogoAccording to FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT Founder and Spokesperson Melvin Ray, the recipe being offered by Gov. Bentley and lead by Sen. Cam Ward in the JRI is nothing more than bloated political speak and, so far as solutions are concerned, is D.O.A. Mr. Ray says that anyone thinking that the JRI program can solve Alabama’s historic mess need only read the report issued by a national group of researchers, analysts and advocates titled, “Ending Mass Incarceration: Charting a New Justice Reinvestment.”

This National Report highlights some of the very issues that are already plaguing Governor Bentley and Sen. Ward from the start: misdirected focus on “costs” as opposed to corrections, lack of racial and demographic diversity from the communities and leaders most affected by mass incarceration, and failing to acknowledge the racial equation that is so evident in Alabama’s (and the Nation’s) criminal justice system.

Ray says that “throughout Governor Bentley’s speech, not once do we hear the words Education, Rehabilitation or Re-Entry Preparedness. It is these structural deficiencies that are driving mass-incarceration in the first place, along with poverty and unemployment. But, we can’t expect to have that discussion when the PRFT and the CSG board more so resemble a Ku Klux Klan rally than it does the racial balance of the State, or the communities that fuel mass incarceration. The people most affected by mass incarceration — the African American community — needs a seat at the table also.robert bentley

When race has so obviously been at the forefront of the drive behind mass incarceration and prison slavery, the African American community cannot expect a group made up almost exclusively of white men to address issues that they created in the first place. There is a real “human cost” at stake here with so many black men being in prison, but Governor Bentley’s committee doesn’t even pay lip service to that issue. Their plan under the JRI of building satellite prisons in our communities and calling it community corrections just won’t do. African American communities are already devalued. Building satellite prisons in them will only exacerbate that equation even lower.”

FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT CO-FOUNDER Robert Earl Council said that the legislation that will address these concerns has already been written in their “FREEDOM BILL.” Mr. Council says that without a focus on education and rehabilitation that includes re-entry programs, the African American community can stay prepared for more of the same.

The ACLU/SENTENCING PROJECT Report (which can be found on their websites) echoes these complaints. According to the Report, “The Justice Reinvestment Initiative, as it has come to operate, runs the danger of institutionalizing mass incarceration at current levels.”

The Report goes on to say that, while the JRI was originally intended to reduce prison populations and pass those savings on to affected communities “to make them safer, stronger, more prosperous and equitable,” the savings have not been realized, and “as it turns out, without significantly reducing corrections populations.”

Despite the fact that the JRI has been implemented in over 28 states, Sen. Ward can only point to Texas as a State that he says the JRI has improved.

Yet, the Report belies Sen. Wart’s comments, and show that Texas’ “prison population went from 171,790 in 2007 up to 173,648 in 2010, then down slightly to 172,224 in 2011.” (p. 6) In the last several years, Texas’s prison population has risen from 171,790 at the end of 2007 to 172,224 at the end of 2011, and is projected to increase further. The JRI trumpets Texas’s “success,” and the Texas reforms were a success in one sense: Texas is one of our toughest-on-crime states, so any progress on criminal justice reform is an accomplishment. However, if the metric is reduced to corrections populations and costs, the Texas JRI program must be viewed as a failure.

Another area of concern for FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT expressed by Mr. Council is “the total lack of representation by a single African American male on either the Governor’s PRFT or the Board of the CSG.”

The 25-member PRTF has 20 white men, 3 white women, 2 African American women, and 0 African American men.

African American men only make up 13% of Alabama’s total population, there are 16,861 African American men in Alabama prisons, who constitute 63% of the total prison population. Based on these statistics alone, Mr. Ray says that the total exclusion of African American men from the PRTF is totally unacceptable, indefensible, and indicative of the systemic racial barriers and white supremacist ideology that continues to exist in Alabama. When Sen. Ward was confronted with this lack of racial inclusion, despite the enacting law (SJR 20  calling for racial inclusion, Sen. Ward said that he is more concerned with diversity of thought than diverse representation.

But as F.A.M. supporter Ms. Barbara Wine states, diverse thought can hardly come from such a homogeneous group:

“A group of white men will always come up with a white man’s idea. Ideas and solutions drawn from a diverse team representative of the population affected, can draw from a range of life experiences, cultural awareness and social knowledge, which will yield better results. White men (especially in the South) did not want to let slavery end, so they kept it alive in the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and enforced it in the prisons. It is a disgrace upon this country that in the Land of the Free we still has a provision in our U. S. Constitution in 2014 that authorizes slavery.”

The National Report supports the need for racial and community inclusion “especially from minority leaders and elected representatives of high incarceration communities (and grass roots organizations, grass-top leaders, among others), WHO ARE OFTEN MARKEDLY MISSING.” (emphasis added)

Rep Barbara Boyd, D Anniston, AL

Rep. Barbara Boyd D-Anniston, who is one of the two female African American’s on the PRTF along with Sen. Vivian Figures, D, Mobile, stated in a discussion with F.A.M. on July 15, 2014, (FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT has over 200 supporters from Rep. Boyd’s district), Alabama already had a prison reform task force that was spearheaded by Rep. John Rogers D- Jefferson (an African American and long-time proponent of prison reform in Alabama) and didn’t need another one. Instead, according to Rep. Boyd, what Rep. Rogers needed, but couldn’t get, was support, funding and a commitment from the power establishment and Alabama Legislature to implement suggested reforms.

Ms. Antonia Brooks (mother of F.A.M. Founder Melvin Ray) says that “the families, friends and loved ones of those incarcerated must be afforded a seat at the table of this debate” and that “Sen. Vivian Figures and Rep. Barbara Boyd owe more to the Black community than to accept a token appointment to a committee that is so obviously promoting a white supremacist agenda and deliberately excluding the group of people most impacted by mass-incarceration – Black people.”

Ms. Brooks stated that F.A.M. has a March planned on the State Capitol next month (August 2014) and that she looks forward to an opportunity to one day sit down with Sen. Figures and Rep. Boyd to hear from them on their appointments and to present them with the “FREEDOM BILL” that is being pushed by FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT.

With over 1.4 million black men in America’s prisons and, as stated by noted author Michelle Alexander, with more Black men under the control of the CJS in 2014 than were enslaved BEFORE the Civil War, Prison Reform in Alabama must address specific issues – – including racism – – that have contributed to mass incarceration, crime, and punishment.

Mandatory GED completion and graduation from a technical school are things that F.A.M. says must be made mandatory in sentencing for anyone serving a split sentence, earning good time, or who hopes to earn an early parole or be placed in an honor camp or work release program (Requirements that are currently lacking in Alabama). Mentoring programs, community volunteer work in sports, arts, and music, and developing Tutoring programs, Gang Intervention and Leadership Programs, and volunteer assistance to elderly, like mowing lawns, etc., which would start at community “Honor camps,” are programs being pushed by the Freedom Bills that F.A.M. says must be included in any Prison Reform if the ills of mass-incarceration are to be seriously addressed.

Under the current model of governance in Alabama, where the community is not made a part of the discussion and white men dominate the debate, we can’t expect enlightenment and diverse, outside-the-box ideas to enter the room

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