HOLMAN PRISON CLOSING: WHAT SHOULD BE EXPECTED?

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.

JUSTICE FOR THE GADSDEN 6: Black Children Are A Commodity In the Criminal Justice System

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.

MARCH 24, 1988 CASE ACTION SUMMARY FROM GADSDEN, ALA JUVENILE COURT WHERE THE “STIPULATION” WAS ENTERED BY THE COURT

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.

GADSDEN 6

FREE ALL AMERICAN SLAVES: AND WHILE YOU’RE AT IT,  REFORM THE REFORMERS

Every time a major incident occurs in a prison in this country like what we are experiencing in Mississippi, the first thing we see are statements calling for more guards and more security. But what we need to see more of are statements calling for mass releases and less people incarcerated in these hell holes and dungeons.

The problems in Mississippi have gripped Alabama, South Carolina, Delaware, Texas, Oklahoma, California and other prison systems. There is a disconnect between reality and the source of the problem. Human life was not intended to be lived in a cage, a steel and concrete cell, or a prefab building. It’s telling when we have so many “advocates” and reformers, etc calling for better living conditions. This is a symptom and reflection of the “kind slave master” who believes that the institution of slavery can be humane with proper amenities, a full staff of corrections officers, and technologies that will allow for the system to “keep an eye” on the plantation warehouses.

But . . . these ideas have to be rejected as well, because they reflect acceptance of the institution, which is predicated on white supremacy, social control of black and brown people and the racist belief that Black, Brown and poor white people are somehow less human and , therefore, deserving of being separated from society and caged like the brutes and beasts of burden that they allegedly are, and whose best purpose is the be directed and guided towards forced labor to enrich the rulers of society.


Even in the conversations about prison reform, you never hear the “benevolent reformers” mention the forced labor endemic to the slave plantations. Sure, they will point out the fact that Black people are disproportionately targeted for Incarceration, but they never delve into the issue of forced labor and the history of slavery. Why? Because the reformers are the descendants of the former slave masters. The reformers habor the same racist thoughts about the “bad nigger” and those who “need to be there.” They call these the “violent offenders” or the “murders” etc, yet they don’t want to acknowledge the intentionally created social and economic conditions that are major contributing factors to these social crimes in the first place.

The reforms don’t need to start at the Prisons or the criminal justice system. It needs to start with the cultural norms, the ideologies and ingrained values of the reformers that lead to the creation of slave plantations and prisons in the first place. But to start here would require the “reformers” to take a look in the mirror. To look at the family tree and their ancestry . And the “reformers” don’t want to start there because then they have to look at the values that they hold dear; the institutions that they pledge allegiance to, and the fears that they habor about people simply because of the color of their skin.


The easy way out is to blame the victim in the cages for their own problems. And say that their prisons only need more guards to keep those who deserve there. When the reality is that prisons are so inhumane that not even the worst that a racist, hatful, deranged society has created deserves to live in a cage – no matter the size of the cage, the level of security, of the wages , cameras and extra safe locks on the doors. Mississippi has shown, once again, that the worst of society are those who try to maintain, reform, and select who should stay and who should be released on parole, receive good time in, America’s cages. Ain’t no way to fix or reform it. It’s time to FREE ALL AMERICAN SLAVES !!!
F. A. M

THE FLAG FOR FREEDOM IN ALABAMA, NOT REFORM !!!

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.