“Proposing a Bill for a one-time ‘Pursuit of Justice claim’ that an inmate can file, excusing procedural defaults, that prove Constitutional violations that occured in their case. The issue may be time-barred or previously denied due to procedural default. This one-time claim gives a person opportunity to expose Malicious Prosecution and prove Constitutional claims previously denied by default.”
By: David E. Files Jr.
Through the Innocence Project several states have passed prison reforms and enacted policies that allow inmates to challenge their convictions, and in some cases actually prove their innocence.
Alabama is long overdue for reform not only prison reform but Criminal Justice reform as well. For example the Alabama Rules of Court state that an inmate has only a one year time period after an appeal or conviction to file a Rule 32 Post-Conviction claim. Alabama Appellate Courts have repeatedly stated that a person ignorant of the law is no excuse for not meeting the requirements set forth in the Rules of Court.
A person wrongly convicted in an Alabama courtroom who has no knowledge of law or the Rules of Court and unable to afford an Attorney to pursue Post-Conviction remedies is completely helpless. Upon conviction a person is sent to an Alabama prison system that itself is held in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
A person sentenced to prison in Alabama with no control as to what facility they are sent to is then required by law to litigate their case and file appropriate Petitions within a specified one year limitation or his Constitutional claims are barred from review and consideration in Alabama courts.
The transfer process upon arrival at Kilby Correctional Facility usually lasts approximately 30 days to several months before being transferred to another facility based upon their classification level.
The process of transferring facilities can easily cause a person to lose vital legal papers they may have in their possession. In some cases officers at different facilities will confiscate or purposely destroy legal papers especially if the person is unaware. All too often a person will not realize their legal papers are missing until it is too late. This tactic used by ADOC officers is intended to further hinder and frustrate the efforts of an individual seeking to pursue Post-Conviction claims.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of Alabama and the Prison System for its unconstitutional conditions. In the lawsuit the Justice Department outlines in explicit detail a corrupt system in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
My question is, how can it be possible that a state in violation of the Constitution turn around and prohibit a person from seeking relief from his conviction based on Constitutional claims in his case?
The ADOC is well-known as the most violent and overcrowded prison system in the country. Sadly this didn’t just start. This reputation has lasted for several years.
The DOJ lawsuit provides information through lengthy and vigorous investigations of widespread violence, inmate on inmate as well as ADOC staff on inmate violence.
The investigations also uncovered corruption throughout the ADOC Administrations as well as an extremely overcrowded inmate population that is warehoused in illegal and inadequate living conditions. These are the findings of the U.S. Justice Department, not baseless inmate allegations.
As these facts come to light how can it be possible to expect a person placed in such conditions to: 1. be provided a safe and adequate Law Library for a person to properly research and litigate his case; 2. if the institution has a functioning Law Library the inmate will have access due to Institutional Lockdowns because of rampant violence in the facility and/or staff shortages that result in the Law Library remaining closed; 3. the overcrowded conditions that severely limit authorized usage of the Law Library; 4. the inmate having proper assistance to help and guide them while pursuing a claim.
All of these factors on top of chaotic, toxic and deadly circumstances that surround the person on a daily basis. These unconstitutional conditions make it nearly impossible to meet the requirements set forth in the Alabama Rules of Court.
The Constitutional violations of the ADOC, as horrendous as they are, still fail in comparison to the Constitutional violations that occur in the Court System. Meanwhile those violations remain hidden and protected through Procedural Defaults that are supported by the Rules of Court in Alabama.
As horrible and illegal as the Prosecuting Attorney General William Dill’s actions in my case at trial are I’m positive there are many worse examples that numerous other inmates who are entrapped in Alabama’s State of Slavery prison system could also prove if given an opportunity.
I am asking for support in proposing a Bill that would allow Alabama inmates to file a one-time Pursuit of Justice claim to prove Constitutional violations that occured in their case that remain hidden and protected through Procedural Defaults such as being time-barred. How is it that such a request that would allow a person to prove he was wrongly convicted be denied that opportunity because of unreasonable demands in an impossible circumstance. How is that JUSTICE?
The awful discoveries outlined in the DOJ lawsuit against Alabama and the ADOC prove what anyone who has experienced the ADOC already knew. Imagine the discoveries of unjust and Malicious Prosecutions that have taken place in Alabama courtrooms by over zealous Prosecutors who know the the system is rigged and by obtaining a conviction their actions will likely not be discovered because an Appellate Court will not review the merits of a claim that is Procedurely Defaulted. Thereby protecting their illegal unconstitutional actions to secure a conviction instead of ensuring Justice.
Before my trial I had faith and confidence that the TRUTH would prevail in the courtroom. Sadly this is not always the case in Alabama.
I am asking that everyone who reads this letter share it with people that you know and help promote this proposition for a Bill that at least gives a person the opportunity to pursue Justice in their case.
The injustices of Malicious Prosecutions should not be allowed to stand and their protection through Procedural Defaults should be reversed and exposed. These practices must be exposed and the trusted officials found in violation of unconstitutional and illegal practices be held accountable.
God hates it when the innocent are afflicted with violence and bloodshed. He hates evil and political corruption. He hates courts that are false and leaders that are abusive of their power. We need to rest assured that he will provide deliverance for his faithful followers and administer justice to those who have abused or harmed other people – if not in this life, for sure in the life to come.
We the “Concerned citizens of Alabama” are seeking help for the incarcerated women and men who have been brutally raped, beaten and murdered by the inside officers.
We are asking that these women and men have proper food (that does not say on its labels “NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION”).
We are seeking help for people with a mental illness who are being “over- medicated” to the point they are unable to function.
For the women and men who are not getting the proper equipment to protect themselves from the COVID-19 virus that surrounds them in the prison facilities; and all the injustices that our people face each and everyday.
At Donaldson Correctional Facility, the individuals with mental illness are housed in the gym of the facility due to overcrowdedness. The gym has very few windows and there is no ventilation flowing through. When it rains, the floors are flooded and these mentally ill men get wet. They sleep on the floor of the gym on a mat that was assigned to them. No beds or bunks but matts on the floors.
Women at Julia Tutwiler Prison are being raped everyday by prison officers and getting impregnated and having their child/children “ripped” from them. Women are also being raped and tortured with “flashlights” by ADOC prison officers.
Men at Bullock Correctional Facility are medicated to the point that when taking the meds administered by ADOC officials, they sleep for two (2) and three (3) days. When awakened, they find CONDOMS in their rectum. This is torture and taking a man’s manhood from him.
Another important factor is COVID-19. There have been many many deaths due to this virus and pandemic that we are all affected by. This virus is in every correctional facility in the state of Alabama. When an incarcerated person complains of feeling sick to someone of authority at the facility, he or she is denied medical attention and has to wait days to see a nurse. When it’s too late, they either die or have tested positive and in many cases are then sent back to their assigned bed (spreading the virus to other inmates) or finally transported to a hospital and in many cases have died upon arrival. That is mere hate and unconcern of human life. There are not enough masks or sanitizer for every incarcerated person.
Staff/employees of the ADOC have been diagnosed with this deadly virus as well. On Wednesday, June 24, 2020 only four (4) ADOC officials reported for work at Easterling Correctional Facility in Clio, Al due to being sick, tested positive for Covid-19 and in fear of contracting this deadly virus. The entire facility is on lockdown with the exception of one (1) dorm and the individuals in that dorm are being forced to work in the kitchen and serve food to everyone in the facility — putting their lives at risk.
Another demand we, the “Concerned Citizens of Alabama” are demanding is the removal of Alabama Parole Board Director, Charlie Graddick. The Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles has become a dysfunctional institution under the directorship of Charles Graddick and is exhibiting signs of institutional racism. Emerging data compiled in a recent report by Southern Poverty Law Center shows that paroles are being granted/denied based on race and that Black people up for parole consideration are being disproportionately impacted.
In May 2020, 160 people were considered for parole. Approximately 51% were black and 47% were white. Of these, only 15 made parole. 11 of the 15 were white, while 4 were black. This is a clear example of Institutional Racism that is being openly practiced by government officials.
Removal of the Director of Paroles, Charlie Graddick, is indeed needed due to there being a conflict of interest on Graddick’s behalf. Graddick sentenced many men and women to prison when he served as a Judge in Mobile, Al, before he was appointed to Alabama Attorney General’s Office. Graddick has now been appointed by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey as Director of Paroles for the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Parole.
Graddick also uses the word “hanging” at press conferences when speaking in regards to people up for parole, and his motto is “LOCK THEM UP AND THROW AWAY THE KEY”. In his position as director of ABPP, the lives and future of many men and women sits rests in his hands.
Lastly, we, Concerned Citizens of Alabama, demand automatic restoration of voting rights upon release from incarceration without having to wait 3 years for a pardon to have their voting rights restored.
This is just the “tip of the iceberg” of some of our concerns for our incarcerated men and women of Alabama.
We are also requesting a meeting with Governor Kay Ivey and Director of Paroles, Charlie Graddick to express our concerns regarding our incarcerated men and women in the Alabama prison system.
Sponsored by “Concerned Citizens of Montgomery, Al, joined in by “Concerned Citizens of Alabama”
Thank you kindly for your time,
Rev. Albert Sankey, Chairman (334) 269-5876 “Concerned Citizens of Montgomery” Kimberly Garner, Co-Chairman (205) 563-3786 “Concerned Citizens of Montgomery” Donna Smith – Parole Advocate (256) 404-5394 “A Voice for the Voiceless & “A Hope for the Hopeless”
For the second consecutive day, FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT and FAM Queen Team lead a Protest at the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. We will be back at the Bureau tomorrow to complete our 3-Day Protest #J232425, where we are demanding immediate change to the Bureau’s operations and leadership.
Day 2 saw a continuation of the pattern of Institutional Racism that has defined the Bureau under Charlie Graddick.
There were 37 parole hearings today. 21 White, 15 Black and 1 Hispanic. For the second consecutive day, no Black woman was on the docket. The results were as follow:
1) 10 Total Paroles were GRANTED
2) 9 White males were granted parole
3) 1 Black male was granted parole.
This is the second day that people who are White were granted at least 80% of all Paroles.
We are seeing once again that race is playing a significant role in determining who is incarcerated and who is released. FAM, FAM Queen Team and other organizations and supporters will be on site and presenting our #FAM12DEMANDS to the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles.
ALERT: Going on NOW !! Free Alabama Movement and FAM Queen Team Protest in Montgomery at the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles. #J232425 #GraddickMustGo #AbolishABPP #DefundABPP #AbolishRepEngland70 #Abolishbsingle362 #23000CantBreathe https://t.co/wRYZX3ALqH
Finally, the ADOC has release an updated report of the number of people who have died from COVID 19 inside Alabama’s deadly prisons. According to the ADOC website, 32 men and women have succumb to this deadly virus. But who knew?
From reading news reports you would think that hardly anyone is dying from COVID 19 in ADOC. How is it that 32 people have died from COVID 19 but no one has sounded the alarm that something tragic is going on? Where are these deaths occurring at? Has the ADOC identified a source? Which prisons are having the most outbreaks? What control measures and prevention strategies are being implemented? Is the public aware of the location of any clusters? What is really going on? 32
As many have heard by now, FAM is conducting a Protest at the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles this week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. #J232425. The ADOC and the Parole Bureau have got to release people from these death camps. Let’s work collectively to free our people from these Death Camps before it’s too late.
News Alabama prison guards allegedly beat, hog-tied, ignored inmate who later died: Secret report
Billy Smith Billy Smith and his mother, Teresa. Smith died in November 2017 after he was beaten in an Alabama prison. (Courtesy Teresa Smith | Injustice Watch)
By Adeshina Emmanuel | Injustice Watch Originally published Feb. 18, 2020, this article is the first in an Injustice Watch series detailing problems in Alabama’s prisons. Injustice Watch is a nonprofit investigative journalism organization based in Chicago.
An Alabama prisoner died weeks after he was allegedly beaten by a fellow inmate, beaten again and hog-tied by prison guards, and then denied treatment by a nurse, according to a secret Alabama Department of Corrections report obtained by Injustice Watch.
The report contains shocking details about the death of Billy Smith, including apparent efforts to conceal the timeline of events and obscure the roles that correctional employees played in his fatal ordeal.
Smith, 35, was found dazed and injured on the floor of a bathroom at Elmore Correctional Facility in November 2017 after another man allegedly punched him in the head and knocked him out over a bungled drug deal.
Inmates took Smith, bloodied, to the shift command office, where witnesses said he complained about head pain and refused to wait outside. Officers then allegedly beat Smith, hog-tied him, and left him strapped to a gurney.
Smith lay untreated for at least an hour, witnesses said in the report, bleeding heavily from his nose and pleading for help.
Officers then took him to a nearby prison medical facility, where a nurse refused him treatment. When authorities returned with Smith, he was unconscious and trembling.
Prison officials then sent Smith back to the medical facility, and paramedics took him to a hospital. Smith, who suffered a fractured skull and brain bleeding, never woke up again. He died 26 days later from blunt force head trauma.
Smith’s mother, Teresa Smith, said the Alabama Department of Corrections never reached out with condolences or an explanation. Smith, who left behind three children, was serving time for a 2006 murder.
“For him to have to die like that — he got the death penalty in my view,” Teresa Smith said in an interview with Injustice Watch. “People say he deserved what he got, but nobody deserves to suffer like that. I know that inmates are prisoners, and maybe they are there for a reason, but they’re not animals; these are people’s sons, brothers, and daddies.”
Teresa Smith Teresa Smith’s son, Billy Smith, died as a prisoner at Elmore Correctional Facility in December 2017. (Adeshina Emmanuel | Injustice Watch)
The details of how guards allegedly left Smith without prompt care for his wounds and then inflicted more injuries were included in the confidential investigative report that the Alabama Department of Corrections has kept secret from the public. In the report, inmates contradicted the explanations correctional staff gave investigators.
Some prison supervisors first denied seeing Smith hogtied, but later revised their statements or were otherwise called into question by video described in the report. An office log was found apparently altered, with notes about Smith missing and a dubious signature. One sergeant failed a polygraph exam, and an assistant warden edited her time card without explanation, according to the report.
Injustice Watch emailed the Alabama Department of Corrections with a long list of questions and sought interviews about what investigators found. Officials responded with a statement confirming that they had probed the circumstances around Smith’s death and forwarded findings to prosecutors, but declined to say much more, “out of respect for the legal process.”
Bryan Blount, who was serving time at Elmore for a 2002 murder, is scheduled to go on trial for manslaughter next month for allegedly causing Smith’s death. So, too, is former correctional officer Jeremy Singleton, who prosecutors say struck Smith multiple times on his head and failed to seek timely medical attention for the inmate.
Mickey McDermott, Singleton’s lawyer, said his client is innocent. Blount’s attorney didn’t return calls for comment. Neither did the state medical examiner who investigators said concluded that Blount was responsible for Smith’s death. Injustice Watch also reached out to the other officers accused of abusing Smith, the nurse who denied his care, and prison supervisors mentioned in the report. All either failed to respond to requests or refused to answer questions about what state investigators found.
The Shift Commander’s Office
Late in the afternoon of Nov. 13, 2017, prisoners found Smith with a bruised forehead and a bloody nose in a prison dormitory. Two officers were watching the dorm, according to the report, which houses nearly 200 inmates.
Prisoners told investigators that Blount punched Smith in the head about 5:30 p.m., knocking him to the concrete floor. The fight was over money — Blount accused Smith of shorting a package of synthetic marijuana. Prison officials alleged that Smith smuggled drugs for Blount from a nearby trade school where Smith attended classes. Smith, of Arab, Alabama, had struggled with addiction and crime since his teen years, his mother said.
Former Elmore correctional officer Joel McClease told Injustice Watch that an inmate brought him to the bathroom, where he found Smith lying on the floor by a toilet. Other prisoners told him Smith was intoxicated. McClease remembers helping Smith to a shower, saying he was conscious but unsteady on his feet. McClease said guards were typically advised to send injured or sick inmates to the shift office so that supervisors could then take them to a nearby prison health facility where nurses could evaluate their condition and fill out a “body chart.”
McClease said he radioed supervisors and requested that an “ambulance unit” of inmates come with a stretcher and transport Smith to the front shift command office.
According to the report, one of the inmates in the ambulance unit told investigators he remembered finding Smith lying on the floor, possibly intoxicated, wearing only boxers and a sweatshirt after his shower. He had a cut atop his head and a bloody nose.
Smith stood and was helped into the gurney. He was taken to a grassy area outside the shift commander’s office, where it was cool and raining. About an hour had passed since the fight.
Nurse Tara Parker was in the office passing out medicine to a long line of inmates. Singleton had just arrived to work an overtime shift as a transport agent, moving inmates from prison to prison. At least two supervisors, Sgt. Jonathan Richardson and shift commander Lt. Kenny Waver, were in the office as well.
Waver, according to the report, said he threatened Smith with a can of mace when Smith first arrived on the gurney because he refused to sit down. But both shift leaders denied hitting Smith or seeing anyone abuse him, and both failed to return calls and letters seeking comment.
Smith continued to complain that he was cold and that his head was hurting badly. According to what several inmates told investigators, Smith defied correctional officers who told him to stay out of the office for fear he would track blood inside.
As the situation escalated, Singleton allegedly smacked Smith hard in his face and head, punched him twice in the ribs, and swept his feet from under him, causing him to fall on his side, three prisoners who helped guards transport Smith said in the report. McClease told Injustice Watch that he left his post to smoke a cigarette, looked down toward the shift office, and saw Singleton hit Smith.
“Singleton was coming out of the door, and Billy was standing on the wall right next to the door, and Singleton turned around and punched him,” he said. “And everybody who was in the pill call line scattered.”
Several prisoners also accused other officers in the report of attacking Smith. Officer Ramus Johnson allegedly “grabbed inmate Smith by the shirt with his left hand and slapped him twice with his right hand and pushed him to the ground,” according to one account. Another prisoner claimed to have seen Officer Walter Green punch Smith in the ribs after putting on gloves with hard plastic knuckles. Neither of the officers responded to repeated requests for comment.
At some point, witnesses alleged, Singleton punched Smith in the face and then “hogtied” him with help from other officers. They cuffed his hands behind him, shackled his feet, and then connected the cuffs to the shackles. Many law enforcement agencies have banned this sort of dangerous restraint method. Some critics liken it to torture.
Smith was laid on his stomach on the gurney, strapped in, and left behind the office beyond the view of cameras, yelling for help for at least an hour or more, according to the report. After he began to vomit, Waver ordered Singleton and rookie officer Ell White to take Smith to the health care unit down the road at Staton Correctional Facility. White, whose personnel file says he is a motor transport operator for the Alabama National Guard, did not return requests for comment.
Inmate runners said the officers unstrapped Smith and that he walked to a prison transport van near the back gate. Video footage showed the van leaving the prison about 9 p.m. Smith entered Staton under his own power, Singleton and White said. But he didn’t leave that way, according to the report.
Jackson Hospital On Nov. 13, 2017, paramedics took Billy Smith to the emergency room at Jackson Hospital with a fractured skull and a bleeding brain. He died 26 days later. (Adeshina Emmanuel | Injustice Watch)
Parker, the nurse, told investigators that she left the shift office at Elmore Correctional Facility and returned to Staton to find the officers in a hallway with Smith. Parker said she told the officers that she needed a few minutes to get settled, but would return. The officers placed Smith in a holding cell to wait.
The officers told investigators they saw Smith sitting on a bench with his eyes closed, and that he eventually slid off and began kicking, hitting his head on the floor, and grabbing at Singleton’s legs. They said they didn’t hit Smith or let him fall.
White said Smith collapsed when officers tried to get him to stand up. Smith became unresponsive, so White rapped him lightly on the back of his neck to wake him. It was “nothing ruthless,” he said. White declined to take a polygraph about that account.
In a second interview, White said that he picked up a water cooler inside the cell and began pouring water over Smith to wake him up. He also said Singleton poured water and ice over Smith, but Singleton denied it. Nurses later discovered the sound of water in Smith’s lungs, according to the report.
When Parker got to the cell, she said there was blood smeared on the walls, and that she found Smith rolling around on the floor, thrashing and yelling. Parker remembered the officers saying that Smith was “wigging out” on drugs, investigators said. In Parker’s statement, she admitted that she made two big mistakes: The nurse did not complete a body chart on Smith, and she ultimately refused to treat him, she said, because he was acting erratically.
Parker initially told investigators she didn’t see water on the ground in Smith’s cell and didn’t see anybody pour water on him. More than two months later, Parker gave a second statement, telling investigators that she did see White pour water over Smith in the holding cell.
Once Parker refused to treat Smith, the officers said they loaded Smith into a wheelchair and rolled him to the van. Singleton said that the officers buckled Smith into the van, but that he unbuckled himself and tore at his clothing. But White, in his second interview, had a different story than Singleton: Smith was not moving when they got to the van, and the officers didn’t buckle him into his seat.
The van was captured on camera returning to Elmore just after 10 p.m., about an hour after Smith was taken to Staton. At least two inmate runners helped unload Smith. They saw him lying on his left side, unresponsive, stuck between two benches, with his shirt over his head, his pants around his ankles, and his boxers down to his thighs, according to the report. One of the runners said that he pulled a trash bag filled with ice from between Smith’s chest and one of the seats.
The inmates who transported Smith, as well as a supervisor who saw him after he returned to Elmore, offered the same account: Smith was wet, shaking uncontrollably, and making a strange snoring noise. “Oh my god,” Waver exclaimed when Smith was rolled back to the shift office, according to one inmate runner’s account. Supervisors then ordered him taken back to Staton.
Parker and one of the inmate runners said that Smith returned to Staton with several marks on his body that were not there before. Parker told investigators it appeared Smith had been dragged. After nurses evaluated his condition, they gave him medicine meant to treat drug overdoses, but it had no effect, according to the report. After that, authorities took Smith to Jackson Hospital, in Montgomery, but the report doesn’t say when.
There are discrepancies in different witness accounts. Some inmates, including retired officer Joel McClease, said that they saw Smith walking on his own closer to 10 p.m.
One of the prisoners who helped transport Smith initially declined to talk to investigators until he was transferred to another prison, 25 miles away. There, he gave investigators a statement largely supporting the descriptions of how Smith was mistreated. He later told investigators that Singleton unexpectedly visited him, saying, “I suppose I know why you are up here.”
The prisoner said Singleton confided that “they are trying to pin that inmate’s death on me,” and then told him to “stay strong.”
The prisoner told investigators that he took the statement to mean he should stay quiet about what happened to Smith, according to the report.
John Crow, who was the warden at Staton during Smith’s incident but has since moved on to another facility, didn’t return calls for comment. And nurse Parker, contacted in February by Injustice Watch, refused to answer questions about what happened at the shift office or the medical facility in 2017 when Smith suffered fatal injuries while she was on duty.
“Please respect the fact that I do not want to talk about this case,” she said. “I do not want to be bothered anymore about the situation.”
Department of Corrections State investigators interrogated many of the correctional employees named in the Billy Smith case at Alabama Department of Corrections headquarters, in Montgomery, Alabama. (Adeshina Emmanuel | Injustice Watch)
The Alabama Department of Corrections’ Investigations and Intelligence Division began looking into Smith’s injuries on Nov. 14, 2017, the day after he arrived at the hospital.
Investigator William D. Favor and a partner, T.A. Wallace, found Smith unconscious, visibly battered, and recovering from an emergency brain surgery when they arrived at the hospital. A nurse told the investigators that Smith had a fractured skull on the left temporal area of his head and a swollen brain that had shifted to the right. Favor wrote in his report that Smith was brought to the hospital “due to a possible drug overdose.”
The investigators reviewed his body and observed: “several cuts to the top of his head, abrasions and bruising on both legs, hips, shoulders, however; he did not appear to have any defensive marks or bruising on his arms nor did he have any cuts to his knuckles and hand that would indicate hitting any object with his fist.”
Then–Elmore Correctional Facility warden Joseph Headley, who didn’t return Injustice Watch’s requests for comment, was among the first people Favor interviewed. Headley, now the warden at Staton Correctional Facility, never indicated that guards or nurses had mishandled Smith, according to investigators. Instead, he helped connect investigators with alleged witnesses to Smith and Blount’s dormitory fight.
When investigators later approached prison leadership with harder questions about what had happened to Smith under their watch and asked whether officers had abused Smith, leaders responded with apparent defensiveness, deception, and a lack of cooperation, the investigators’ report shows.
Assistant Warden Gwendolyn Babers, who refused to be interviewed for this story, denied ever seeing an inmate abused, according to the report. A prisoner, however, alleged that Babers had exited out the front side door in view of the shift office, and spoke to Waver briefly while Smith was hog-tied. Investigators couldn’t confirm that inmate’s account. And Babers’ time card showed that she clocked out about 40 minutes before Smith was brought to the shift office, according to the report. However, investigators noted that Babers’ time card was edited on the day Smith was hurt, and that “the reason for the editing is unknown.”
Waver denied that any officers under his command struck Smith and denied seeing Smith hog-tied on the gurney, though in a later interview he acknowledged seeing Smith handcuffed and shackled on the gurney outside the office for an hour or more.
Richardson denied seeing any officer strike Smith and said he could not confirm if he was hog-tied. The corrections sergeant said he had only been outside the office once during Smith’s ordeal — when other witnesses said he was being beaten — but video later showed he had been outside at least six times, according to investigators.
Investigators also found that the original copy of a shift office log was missing notes about Smith’s first trip to Staton that a clerk remembered entering, and it lacked a required signature from a supervisor. A copy of the unsigned, incomplete log was found on a clipboard in the women’s bathroom. The purported original was later found in a locked file cabinet bearing Richardson’s signature.
Richardson denied knowing whether anyone had changed the shift log and insisted that he had signed the log. He failed a polygraph exam when agents asked him if he had seen Smith hog-tied, if he had signed the shift log after it had been altered and if he knew who had made the changes, the report shows.
A state autopsy concluded Smith had died of blunt force trauma. After hearing investigators describe the details of Smith’s fight with Blount and witness statements about Smith’s contact with officers, a medical examiner with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences attributed Smith’s fatal injuries to his fight with Blount.
In February 2019, one of the investigators referred a manslaughter charge against Blount to the Elmore County District Attorney’s Office.
Investigators declared the Smith probe “exceptionally cleared” and closed it in October 2018, due to the case against the inmate. But in July 2019, the grand jury returned indictments against both Blount and Singleton, who had been promoted to sergeant a year prior.
Prison officials put Singleton on mandatory leave after learning of the indictment, and he resigned about a week later, in August 2019, according to a statement from the Department of Corrections.
Both Singleton and Blount are scheduled to begin trial in December.
McDermott, Singleton’s lawyer, said “the state of Alabama can’t have it both ways” by charging both men with manslaughter even though a state autopsy concluded Blount was at fault.
He accused inmates of making false statements, and blasted corrections staff at Elmore for allegedly scapegoating Singleton while other employees got off the hook.
“Mr. Singleton has been sued civilly, he’s been charged criminally, yet if you read the report, the person who denied medical treatment to Mr. Smith was a nurse,” McDermott said. “The nurse has not been charged, she has not been sued, but clearly she refused medical treatment to this inmate, and I’m sorry, but if you look at it, it looks like her delay contributed to this man’s death.”
Smith’s mother, Teresa Smith, also rejects the notion that only Blount and Singleton are responsible. That is one reason why her family filed a civil lawsuit against Singleton, Warden Headley, who transferred to Staton last year, Waver, state prison chief Jeff Dunn, and former associate commissioner Grantt Culliver, who retired in 2018 amid a sexual misconduct scandal.
She hopes that the story of how her son died can help spur greater accountability at Elmore Correctional Facility and other Alabama prisons, and urge consequences higher up the organizational chart when corrections employees mistreat inmates.
“I want to save another mama, or another child, from having to feel pain like this,” she said. “I don’t really blame the prisoner, because I don’t think he killed my son. I know that the guards did it, and it wasn’t just one person involved.”
Click here to read the rest of Injustice Watch’s Alabama Prison Crisis series.
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Many people are tuned in to the most recent media coverage of events about the murder of an innocent and unarmed Black man in Georgia and another incident where a Black woman was body-slammed by an officer for not wearing a face covering in a public storefront. However, another attack by a peace officer against an unarmed Black man in Alabama, Mr. Andre McKinney, has not made its way into the news cycle. Why? Probably because Mr. McKinney is incarcerated, and these types of stories rarely ever make the news.
Nevertheless, there are certain facts about this incident aside from the fact that Mr. Kinney is a victim of unprovoked police brutality that are news worthy.
Many activist and others who are following the Alabama prison system know that late last year two men, Stephen Davis and Micheal Smith, were beaten to death by Alabama correctional Officers. No arrests have been made in either incident. Additionally, the officer involved in the Davis murder, Kendrick Gadson, has already returned to work and been promoted by Commissioner Dunn to the rank of Sergeant.
These were the second and third reported incidents of a person in custody of ADOC being beaten to death by correctional Officers. Rocrast Mack III was also beaten to death in 2010, and his attackers were convicted and sentenced to federal prison.
At the same time, the ADOC is currently being investigated by the United States Department of Justice for, among other things, violence levels in Alabama’s men prisons. Coincidentally, the ADOC stalled federal investigators for over one year, refusing to turn over internal documents and reports relating to use-of-force by correctional officers, which turns directly into this latest attack against Mr. McKinney.
Lt. Ronald Carter, the officer involved in the attack and beating of Mr. Kinney, is no stranger to such accusations.
In a class action lawsuit filed while Lt. Carter was a Sargeant at Donaldson Correctional Facility, Carter was accused of beating multiple individuals, all while in handcuffs. In addition, then-Sgt. Carter was once relieved of duty when other officers turned on him in a lawsuit after it was uncovered that Carter was running an illegal racketeering operation using cigarettes and coffee to extort incarcerated individuals, their families and to conduct other illegal activities.
Carter, however, is a second generation officer who was able to get rehired after resigning when his racketeering activities were uncovered. His mother, Mary Carter was a long-time ADOC correctional officer officer and served as a warden for many years during her tenure with ADOC. She is now retired.
By 2014, Carter had risen to the rank of Lieutenant, and his reputation for violence was well documented. At that time, he transferred to St. Clair prison from Donaldson prison, where he served under notorious warden Carter Davenport. As an enforcer for Davenport, Carter carried out a reign of terror that lasted for several years.
Three incidents bear mentioning here.
1. Jermaine Tillman.
Jermaine Tillman was beaten and asphyxiated by Lt. Carter while handcuffs. Mr. Tillman had to be resuscitated multiple times to survive. This incident resulted in a civil settlement of tens of thousands of dollars.
2. Ventura Harris.
One day Ventura Harris was called out of his assigned living area by two officers. When Mr. Harris stepped into the corridor, Lt. Carter was waiting. Lt. Carter had the two officers to place Mr. Harris against the wall and handcuff him to the rear. While Mr. Harris was handcuffed to the rear and defenseless, one of the officers took a set of handcuffs and delivered a blow to the back of Mr. Harris’s head. The blow was so violent that it busted his scalp all the way to the skull.
Harris also settled a civil rights lawsuits for tens of thousands of dollars.
Mr. Xavian Austin was apprehended for allegedly possessing a cellphone. The officers who apprehended Mr. Austin placed him in handcuffs to the rear and proceed to escort him out of the dorm. Once outside, Mr. Austin was roughed up and his head was ran into a concrete wall.
From there, Mr. Austin was taken to the shift officer, where Lt. Carter was waiting. Mr. Austin was summarily beaten by Lt. Carter and then taken to the infirmary. After being screened by medical staff, Mr. Austin was taken to a remote location where he was beaten again by Lt. Carter and his crew.
BUT . . .
Later this same morning after the Austin attacks, Lt. Carter himself would be stabbed multiple times, have his jaw broken, and suffer multiple other injuries. This incident set off a wave of violence in the ADOC that has not dissipated to this day.
Lt. Carter was absent from the ADOC for over two years, before finally resurfacing at Childerburg Work Camp. Apparently, Commissioner Jefferson Dunn has positions for violent officers like Lt. Ronald Carter.
Lt. Carter seems to have learned a few things after watching how the Stephen Davis murder played out. Recall that the officers who beat Mr. Davis to death claim that Mr. Davis attacked them with two knives in hand. Mr. Davis was beaten beyond recognition, forcing his mother to hold a closed casket funeral.
In the disciplinary report filed in the McKinney assault, Lt. Carter claims that Mr. McKinney took a 1×4 and struck himself in the head while “handcuff[ed] to the front.”
The Alabama Prison System under the leadership of Commissioner Jefferson Dunn is a bottomless pit of moral decay and hell-on-earth that knows no sin or evil too great. It is time to STOP making demands for change to Commissioner Dunn and start making the DEMAND that #DunnMustGo!!
Please follow us for details of actions being planned to demand Justice for Mr. McKinney.
TO: GOVERNOR KAY IVEY AND CONCERNED ALABAMA CITIZENS, JUVENILE ADVOCATES AND STATE LEADERS
RE: CHILDREN IN JUVENILE DETENTION FACILITIES DURING THE COVID 19 PANDEMIC: WHERE IS THEIR ADVOCACY AND WHY ISN’T ANYONE DEMANDING THEIR RELEASE??
With each passing day, the clamor about a potential human rights nightmare taking place inside America’s overcrowded prisons and jails grows louder. We are seeing more and more videos emerge from inside these facilities by courageous (and sometimes sick) men and women showing the world that the structure and conditions inside of the human warehouses are tinderboxes for COVID 19. As a result of these images and stories and advocacy, thousands of men and women across the United States have been released, with the promise of more releases to come. Just yesterday, Alabama’s Parole Bureau announced plans to re-start parole review amid mounting pressure from public discontent.Despite these positive, though belated development, the loudest noise emerging from this crisis is the silence that is emanating from the lack of dialogue about the thousands of vulnerable children who are detained in Alabama’s Youth Detention Facilities. Where is their advocacy and why is no one demanding their release ? It’s time to start asking ourselves a few questions:
How many children are currently in the custody of Alabama’s juvenile detention facilities?
What are the conditions that these children are being detained in as it relates to COVID 19?
Are any children at any facility being subjected to a heightened risk of exposure to COVID 19 as a result of their housing/living conditions?
What type of safety precautions are in place to protect these children from COVID 19?
Has Alabama released any children from juvenile detention facilities due to COVID 19? If not, why?
Are these children being provided masks, gloves, soaps, hand sanitizers, and other PPEs?
In this State of Emergency is the media allowed into these facilities to assess the conditions that these children are being house in and to verify any account given by juvenile authorities?
With COVID 19 now having a disproportionate impact on African Americans, what are the demographics and racial make-up of Alabama’s juvenile populations overall and at each facility?
Who is responsible for devising and implementing emergency planning as it relates to children in juvenile detention facilities?
These questions obviously lead into the most important question of them all: Has anyone (staff/judicial official/case worker) who has come into contact with these children tested positive for COVID 19 ?, or has any child tested positive for COVID 19? Indeed, has any testing at all been done? Are temperatures being checked? What protocols are being followed to protect these children?As I said, there is a deafening silence coming from this segment of the COVID 19 prison/jail commentary. When we talk about the most vulnerable people in society to COVID 19, who is more vulnerable than a child? These children lack the mental acumen to fully grasp and comprehend this once-in-a-lifetime type of pandemic. Then, we have to take into account that some of these children suffer from mental health and emotional issues, psychological trauma from being in these facilities that weaken their immune systems, physical disabilities, etc. Are they being allowed phone calls every day to contact their families? Are they in school or has their school been suspended? We have all of these children locked up in these juvenile detention facilities that look and operate just like jails and prisons, yet we aren’t receiving any information on their well-being and we don’t know what the plan is for their safety.We have to keep in mind that these children are not criminals. They have not been convicted of any crime. No, instead, many of them are simply juvenile delinquents and have sentences that range from maybe a few days to less than six months. This is because their delinquent act may have been running away from home. Acting out in school. Shoplifting or stealing a bicycle or car. Etc. You know, the very things that juvenile are apt to do. Some, of course, may have committed more serious offenses, but the issue is, should these delinquent acts now carry a potential COVID 19 death sentence because they so happen to be in a juvenile detention facility when this deadly virus emerged? The answer to that question is, emphatically, no !!! So, the final question is, what should we be doing to #FREEOURCHILDREN?Many of us in FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT have travelled through these juvenile detention facilities in the past on our way to these adult prisons. That is why it is easy for us to notice the silence across the spectrum of conversation when it comes to children in detention. These children, most likely, are living in the same squalor and moral decay that we now find ourselves living in in these adult prisons. In our opinion, which is supported by studies on the school-to-prison pipeline, the juvenile justice system have served as a feeder system for the adult prisons. In fact, many of these facilities don’t prepare these children for a successful re-entry into society; instead, they prepared us for successful entry into the adult prison system, all the way down to the (illegal) free labor. These juvenile facilities are an important part of the overall carcearal eco-system, as the adult prison system depends on these juvenile facilities to keep turning out assets for future capitalization. Thus, we should not only be fighting to save the lives of these children from COVID 19, but in doing so we will also be saving them from a dysfunctional juvenile system that will only serve to prepare them to spend time in an adult prison – namely, the new facilities that Governor Kay Ivey is planning to build.SINCERELY,FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT
APRIL 5, 2020 11:00 am FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RE: Deadly conditions inside of Alabama prisons and the need for decisive actions by Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Legislature in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic
TO: GOVERNOR KAY IVEY, THE ALABAMA LEGISLATURE AND OTHER STATE LEADERSHIP
Dear Governor Kay Ivey, the Alabama Legislature and ADOC Commissioner Jefferson Dunn:
We are releasing this statement from inside the Alabama prison system on behalf of ourselves, and on behalf of our families and those who are impacted by the Alabama prison system, including the employees and their families. All facilities within the Alabama prison system are facing a new crisis involving Covid-19. Because of the limited information we were provided, we’ve only recently become aware of the two ADOC employees that tested positive for this deadly virus. Meanwhile those of us on the inside, inclusive of less than 20 individuals total, only recently began being tested.
We, our families, the employees, and their families, are fearful for our lives and well-being in the midst of this crisis. We are looking to our state leaders to take actions that reflect (show) value for our lives equally to that of any other human life.
For the past several years, much attention has been paid to the Alabama prison system, but very little has been done to remedy the problems that the prison system is faced with. Now, with COVID-19 looming as a threat projected to kill approx. 250,000, experts, legal professionals, and others, are forecasting catastrophic results for America’s overcrowded prisons.
These pressing issues dictate that it is time for politics to take a backseat and for sound-humanitarian action to be placed in the forefront concerning the lives of those of us who are incarcerated in the Alabama Department of Corrections (as well as those whose lives that are directly or indirectly connected to the prison system).
It is well established that Alabama’s state prisons are severely overcrowded, underfunded, and understaffed relative to the overcrowded population and are already dealing with substantial issues. With much of the disaster still ahead of us, we have yet to receive any protective supplies to help combat this deadly virus, and it is well-known that there are few ventilators available in the prison system.
Based on the response that we have seen so far within the ADOC, it is a legitimate question to ask: Do the leaders of this state care about our lives inside of these prisons?? Are we nothing more than commodities being used to fund the canteen and incentive packages, and for the use of our free labor?
On January 26, 2020, Alabama prison Commissioner Jefferson Dunn stated during an interview with the Wall Street Journal the following:
“Our infrastructure was not designed to rehabilitate. It was designed to warehouse.”
Consistent with that statement, one federal judge after another has described Alabama prisons as deplorable and in violation of the basic human rights and moral decency of those incarcerated with the ADOC facilities. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson, who is currently presiding over class-action litigation Duke et al., v. Dunn, et al., Civil Action No. 4:14-CV-1952-VEH, (Equal Justice Initiative) concerning Alabama prisons, recently approved a private settlement where over $600,000.00 in attorney fees was paid to attorneys from Equal Justice Initiative finding that systemic overcrowding levels were creating problems that rendered St. Clair prison (and many others) uncontrollable, and that the ADOC must reduce the population of the prison in order to meet the federal constitutional standard.
Already though, this order and private settlement are being reviewed for non-compliance by ADOC. In addition, on April 4, 2019, the US Department of Justice stated that after investigating the ADOC for nearly two years, the conditions of Alabama prisons violate the Eight Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
Furthermore, there are multiple class-action lawsuits pending in federal court concerning these and other conditions, including inadequate mental health care and inadequate medical care; plus an additional 70-plus lawsuits pending against ADOC officers for using excessive force, sexual assault by corrections staff, inhumane conditions of confinement, and for retaliation by ADOC against those individuals who have exposed these conditions inside the prisons. These issues point to clear signs that Alabama’s $600,000,000.00 prison system is out of control and a failed state institution.
Just this past Monday, March 30, 2020, yet another person was killed due to violence inside an Alabama prison. This death is compounded by the fact that in 2019, the Alabama prison system recorded more deaths due to violence than in any year prior. In addition to violent deaths, Alabama’s prison system leads the nation, or ranks near the top, in suicide deaths. Reporter Beth Shelburne recently described the culture inside of ADOC as criminogenic, meaning that it engenders criminal behavior. This is substantiated by the fact that over 70 officers have been fired in the past two years for trafficking drugs into the prisons. Several other officers have been convicted for violating the rights of incarcerated citizens, and last year two individuals (Stephen Davis and Michael Smith) were beaten to death by correctional officers. Both incidents remain under federal investigation.
Despite this grim reality, solutions to these problems have not been forthcoming, and countless people continue to be negatively impacted by this failed institution. Based on current empirical data from how the government has responded to previous conditions in ADOC, we are posing the question: how many of us will be left to die in this COVID-19 pandemic?
In the event of an outbreak, what, exactly is the ADOC’s plan to respond? Why has this plan not been communicated to us? When will testing begin in earnest? Where will we be quarantined? While test results are pending, where will these patients be isolated ? How many ventilators are available? How many nurses are available?
HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF
In 1971, Alabama’s prisons were facing the exact same issues that, like today, lead to class action lawsuits in federal court. As you all know, those federal lawsuits lead to a federal takeover of the Alabama prison system that lasted until 1985, when federal oversight ended. (Newman v. Alabama and Pugh v. Locke, 349 F. Supp. 278 (M.D. Ala. 1972); James v. Wallace, 406 F. Supp. 318 (M.D. Ala. 1974).
The “solutions” offered back in 1971, are the cause of the problems today. Alabama approved a plan to build new prisons – St. Clair CF, now the deadliest prison in the entire United States, being one of them – and for passage of the draconian and oppressive Habitual Felony Offender Act. This law is acutely responsible for the unconstitutional overcrowding that drove the prison system off the cliff today, and lead to excessively long sentences that have produced an aging population of men and women who have served 20, 30, 40 or even 50- plus years consecutively. These men and women are now elderly, in poor health from decades of incarceration, and the most vulnerable to the COVID 19 virus.
Building new prisons back then did not solve those problems, and building new prisons today will not solve these problems. Instead, the prison system has a problem with culture, leadership and with coming to grips with issues of race in the criminal justice system that have yet to be resolved. These cultural and structural issues transferred from the old prisons to the new ones, and that is exactly why the exact same problems exist today. There is a current opioid crisis, a methamphetamine crisis, a synthetic drug crisis, as well as biological diseases like TB and Hepatitis running wild in ADOC. As all of you know, these facts have been confirmed by the April 4, 2019, U. S. Department of Justice Report on Alabama prisons. COVID 19, with its potential to explode on our overcrowded prison population, threatens to bring an unimaginable and unfathomable death toll if we don’t act.
A VIABLE SOLUTION IN THE ALABAMA PRISON LITIGATION REFORM ACT
One option available to us it litigation pursuant to the Alabama Prison Litigation Reform Act, Title 14-15-10, Code of Alabama 1975, which authorizes a judge to issue a release order to address prison conditions where “(1) Crowding is the primary cause of the violation of a right” and “A court has previously entered an order for less intrusive relief that has failed to remedy. ” Failure to act by State leaders will only ensure public shame in the near future for the deliberate, malicious sentence of death imposed upon all the unfortunate who eventually succumb to Covid-19 while incarcerated in facilities that were deemed unconstitutional and uninhabitable long before there ever was a Covid-19 pandemic. (It should be noted here that only around 200 of the 24,000+ people the ADOC houses are under court ordered sentences of death).
A recent poll conducted by the ACLU indicates that 63% percent of taxpayers support releasing people from jails/prisons and 72% support clemency for elderly incarcerated people in the face of the COVID 19 pandemic. Governor Ivey and Alabama Legislatures, a failure to act now to save as many lives as possible, after so many citizens have already expressed approval of release, will extract an additional financial cost on taxpayers in federal court for wrongful and preventable deaths, and will come at a huge political cost during the upcoming election cycle. We will not stand by and be silent and forgiving for such a callous disregard for our lives. The ADOC lacks sufficient ventilators and lacks the necessary space to quarantine off the virus, which convinces us that the plan in place is a plan for COVID 19 to slaughter. It is well-known what will be needed to stave off this virus, and we know that those types of resources don’t exist in these prisons.
As people on the ground who are experiencing this crisis in real time, we offer the foregoing plan in effort to save our own lives and the lives of those who, as a result of their contact with us and ADOC, are affected by the pending COVID 19 crisis in the ADOC.
DETAILED ACTIONS NECESSARY TO SAVE LIVES IN ALABAMA PRISONS:
As an act of compassion and in order to prevent humanitarian catastrophe, Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Legislature should take the following actions immediately:
1. Order medical leave for all employees working within the ADOC who are elderly, having a medical condition that makes them vulnerable to COVID-19, and/or who may be immuno-compromised;
2. Grant compassionate release of all chronic-care, cancer treatment, dialysis, and patients suffering from respiratory issues, who are elderly, disabled, and/or immuno-compromised;
3. End parole revocations that are not based on the commission of new crimes, and release all current technical violators and those incarcerated because of drug addiction, or because of an inability to pay fines or child support obligations.
4. Immediately abolish the Habitual Felony Offender Act, and
5. Immediately release all juvenile in Alabama’s juvenile detention facilities, and anyone serving a sentence after being convicted as a youthful offender, as such sentences only carry a maximum of three years.
6. Release every person fitting the following criteria:
ii. Is under the age of 21 and serving a sentence of 20 years or less
iii. Has served 20 consecutive year or more in prison for a non-capital offense, not involving a child and not a violent sexual predator
iv. Has served 25 years or more for a capital offense
v. Is over the age of 55, has already served 10 years or more, and is especially vulnerable to COVID 19
vi. All individuals already deemed parole-eligible in 2020 and can provide a sufficient home plan, job plan and re-entry plans;
vii. Is currently under deferral after being denied parole over the past 5 years, but was otherwise eligible for parole pending completion of further programming;
viii. Any person currently serving a split-sentence, where the split sentence is for five years or less.
ix. Any person who qualifies for mandatory parole pursuant to Title 15-22-26.2, Code of Alabama 1975, but who hasn’t been released yet.
x. Any person who has already served over 50% of their current sentence.
The failure to act will further expose Alabama taxpayers to civil lawsuits due to the deliberate indifference to human life that would be displayed by a failure to act immediately on the part of Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Legislature.
In addition, Governor Kay Ivey should Order Commissioner Jefferson Dunn to allow all Faith-based Prison Ministries, Civic Organizations, and Volunteers who are already approved to enter into an Alabama prison back into the prison system to assist us by donating, or leading donor drives to receive gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, soap and other protective material recommended by the Alabama Dept. of Public Health and the CDC, in effort to protect and preserve human life as much as possible. Currently, these organizations and people are deemed non-essential, thus their access is being denied. However, anyone following the news in Alabama knows that the Faith communities like Church of the Highlands are, in fact, taking leading roles in combating COVID 19, and are, indeed, essential personnel. To date, those of us incarcerated inside of Alabama prisons and juvenile detention facilities do not have access to such protection, while the corrections and medical staff– who are the ones who will bring the virus into the prisons — have immediate access to these materials.
We implore you, Governor Ivey and the Alabama Legislature, to act swiftly and immediately to all necessary action to reduce our State’s prison population down to no less than design capacity (Alabama’s prisons are currently packed beyond 160% of their design capacity, as a whole, while some prisons exceed 200% or even 300% of design capacity), and to enact legislation abolishing the Habitual Felony Offender Act, which, as this COVID 19 crisis proves, has outlived its purpose and now poses a real and substantial threat to the lives and welfare of thousands of citizens of the State of Alabama.
To continue to employ or incarcerate the above people while the deadly virus spreads through the system would effectively be sentencing too many to death. Moreover, a release of the said people would instantly reduce the ADOC population, thereby meeting the constitutional standard; in effect allowing our humanity to supersede all politics. With the Institute for Health and Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington predicting that Alabama will have the highest COVID 19 death rate in the U.S., the outcome for those of us left behind in these steel barriers, fences and cages is a foregone conclusion if we don’t act Now !
FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT
FAM Queen Team Standing In Solidarity
A non-violent and peaceful Civil and Human Rights organization founded inside of the Alabama prison system in 2013.
FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT P.O. BOX 186 New Market, Ala 35761 (334) 245-0761
(We can be reached inside of the death camps also)
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.