WE, the Prisoners of Alabama Department of Corrections, as a collective reach out to Rev. Kenneth Glasgow, Founder of The Ordinary People Society, Prodigal Child Project and Formerly Incarcerated Convicted People Families Movement asking that Rev. Glasgow mediate and speak on our behalf, in making the following statement to the Legislators of the state of Alabama.
At 12:01 May 1, 2016 We, Alabama Prisoners will begin a Peaceful and Nonviolent Protest for Our Human Rights in the form of a Work Stoppage. This is in fact a means to Peacefully Petition the Alabama Government for Redress of Grievances as We have suffered under Cruel and Inhumane Conditions over the past two decades.
Let us be clear, this is not just about the Deplorable Conditions of Confinement, but more so about the 13th Amendment, the Alabama Constitution of 1901 and the Statutory Laws discriminatoryly enacted from both. The laws that created and maintains the denial of our Human Rights and perpetuation of our Economical Exploitation.
From Wrongful Convictions, Exceedingly Excessive and Mandatory LWOP sentences, Alabama’s prisons are literally Warehouses of Men stacked on top of one another, and due to an Arbitrary and Biased Parole Board System, thousands of Men eligible to be released are stopped up in a broken and dangerous system.
*It has been stated and acknowledged that there are over 3, 000 people that are eligible to be released. However, due to budgetary concerns (parole and probation officers, supervision, etc) they remain trapped in an excessively overcrowded system; exposed to unnecessary threat to their safety and well being. To address this issue would contribute greatly to relieving the pressure of prison overcrowding.
A lot of the pressure could be released by Revising and Modifying the Laws and Policies that Created and Perpetuates these Cruel and Inhumane Conditions; not by building bigger more expensive prisons.
*Over 8000 people are serving enhanced mandatory sentences under Alabama’s Habitual Offenders Statute. More than 2000 are serving Mandatory LWOP sentence, some for petty theft cases.
To Repeal the Habitual Offenders Statute would create the opportunity for over 8000 people to be eligible to return to their families and communities after decades due to the application of the Habitual Offenders Statute while reducing the inhumane and dangerous overcrowding which contributes to the spread of diseases and increases the level of violence. Overall it would contribute to a more sanitary and humane living environment.
*From exposure through exonerations it is clear that the Prosecutors of the State of Alabama are more concerned with convictions than truth and innocence. Most of the attention has been focused on the Wrongful Convictions of those sentenced to Death. As a result a demand for oversight was expressed in Senate Bill 237. However, through political maneuvering this Bill was tailored to only apply to those sentenced to death.
We assert that The Alabama Innocence Inquiry Commission created by Senate Bill 237 shall apply to all Wrongfully Convicted prisoners not just Death Penalty cases. To be Wrongfully Convicted is to be Wrongfully Convicted no matter the sentence. No innocent person should suffer the loss of his freedom unjustly and remain confined due to procedural limitations or judicial misconduct. Therefore, this Bill shall apply to all prisoners with credible claims of innocence, as this is what justice requires.
*Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme rightly declared that mandatory Life without Parole sentences for juveniles was unconstitutional. It is time that Alabama go a step further and abolish mandatory Life without Parole sentences for First Time Offenders, many who were barely beyond the juvenile age limit.
This would make hundreds of prisoners eligible to earn their freedom after being provided Education, Rehabilitation and ReEntry Preparedness. Thus also relieving some of the pressure and strain created by the excessive overcrowding.
*We further state that the A.D.O.C’s Economical policies and practices of compelling Incarcerated Citizens to provide labor with no compensation, while imposing various fines and fees upon them, is hyper-exploitative, unjust and amounts to PRISON SLAVERY.—–It is discriminatory and exploitative to force Incarcerated people to work while prohibiting them from being compensated; yet imposing arbitrary fines and fees upon them. To work is an essential part of rehabilitation and learning to be responsible for self, as from the compensation one is able to provide for their needs and ease the financial burden on their families. Therefore, A.D.O.C’s Economical policy of Free Labor is counterproductive to rehabilitation and is exploitative and demeaning. Therefore, a more equitable Economic Policy shall be established between Alabama Prisoners and the ADOC.
*The Alabama Parole Board is arbitrary and biased therefore it must be overhauled to establish a criteria for those eligible for Parole.
The members of the Alabama parole board are receiving these appointments with an agenda that says that rewards them with long-term employment and other incentives to deny parole. These members refuse to set criteria for parole eligibility because this would make parole mandatory, instead of discretionary, for those who qualify.
In theory, the 13th Amendment put an end to and forever abolished slavery, at least that is what we’ve been taught in schools. However, in actual practice, the 13th Amendment merely changed the name, method and rationale for keeping African Americans in a state of perpetual servitude. As the 13th Amendment explicitly permits ” Involuntary Servitude”– an euphemism for Slavery– as punishment for “duly convicted criminals.”
In direct response to this Constitutional mandate, the Alabama Judicial System was structured to keep white land owners in a position of power and Africans in their place– Servitude. In fact, the State of Alabama used the 13th Amendment as their foundation in drafting the *ALABAMA CONSTITUTION OF 1901. As the Alabama Legislature used their authority to set up court systems, appointed only white people as Judges and District Attorneys, pre arranged elections for those positions that had to be voted on, then expanded the criminal code as its effective means of carrying out their objective. By their own admission, the State of Alabama’s sole purpose in drafting the Constitution of 1901 was to establish “White Supremacy”- by law. As the delegates to the all-white Constitutional Convention, were not secretive about their purpose and aims. In the opening address, President of the Convention, John B. Knox stated:
“And what is it that we want to do? Why is it within the limits imposed by the federal constitution to establish white supremacy in this state.” … “but if we would have white supremacy, we must establish it by law…”
In keeping with the sentiments of John B. Knox, the State of Alabama has used the Constitution of 1901 to construct a solid foundation, in which to discriminate from.
Even to this day, Alabama openly applies its laws discriminately, first –based upon race, then upon financial status.
Alabama’s “good old boy”-style of justice is maintained and perpetuated by police officers “overreaching”, district attorney’s ” overcharging” and judges “over sentencing.” All of this is made possible by the Alabama Constitution of 1901 and the Alabama Legislature, as it is the Alabama Legislature that enact these laws that specifically target young African-American males, particularly and African-Americans in general.
*One glaring example, is the racially motivated amending of the Capital Murder statute to include Section 16, 17 and 18- or commonly called the “drive-by shooting laws”. According to the Alabama Legislature, in the early 1990’s there was a massive public outcry against”gangs”, so in 1992 the Legislature passed Act 92-601; which made a murder committed by the use of a deadly weapon fired from or into a vehicle, a Capital Offense–punishable by death or life without parole. Act 92-601 became codified in Title 13A-5-40(a)(16),(17) and (18). From a plain reading of the statute, in order to be charged and found guilty of the Capital Offense, all that’s required is that the shooter or victim be in a vehicle or house at the time of the murder. Prior to this amendment, all Capital Offenses required an aggravating circumstance in order to elevate the murder to a death penalty offense. However, the “drive-by shooting laws” are simply based upon location of the shooter or victim.
In March of 2006, Representatives Marcel Black and John Robinson authored a Bill and presented it to the House of Representatives, which addressed the application of subdivisions 16, 17 and 18 of Title 13A-5-40, I.e., the Capital Murder statute. In session it was stated:
“Whereas, the legislature is aware of the case of State of Alabama v. Fondren (Calhoun County CC 02-600) in which Fondren was convicted of Capital Murder for violating Section 14A-5-40(a)(18)…”
On March 28, 2006, this Bill was adopted by the House of Representatives. On April 17, 2006, this Bill Was adopted and signed by the Senate. Upon both Houses adopting this Bill, it became House Joint Resolution 575. In accordance with the procedure for passing a Bill into Law, the House Joint Resolution was delivered to the Governor. On April 27, 2006 at 1:09 p.m. Governor Bob Riley signed the Bill.
It became Act No. 2006-642, which stated in pertinent part: ” … in passing Act 92-601, it was the intent of the legislature in adding sub division (18) to address”drive-by shooting”, that is murder committed through the use of a deadly weapon …used within or from a vehicle which murders were gang related or intended to incite public terror or alarm.”
In HJR 575 (Act No. 2006-642) the legislature recognized that Section 13A-5-40(a)(17),(18) has been misinterpreted by prosecutors and courts to apply to any murder committed by or through the use of a deadly weapon, fired or otherwise used within or from a vehicle, even if it was not gang related.
Being that this interpretation was contrary to the legislature’s intent, the Legislature urged the Attorney General and District Attorneys to charge only those individuals who commit murder by or through the use of a deadly weapon fired or otherwise within or from a vehicle, when the vehicle was involved in the shooting or that the shooting was gang related. This clarification by the legislature should have changed the sentences for countless individuals serving Life Without Parole behind the prosecutors and judges misapplication of the law.
Therefore, the Legislature shall amend the “drive-by shooting” statutes, so that the plain language of the statute will effectuate the legislature’s intent as expressed in House Joint Resolution 575(Act No. 2006-642). And to make such Amendment Retroactive.
*The A.D.O.C’s policy and practice of not affording those Incarcerated with meaningful Educational and Rehabilitation opportunities falls below the standards of human decency, as it perpetuates ignorance and exploitation. It has been empirically proven that the lack of Education is a primary driver for incarceration, therefore, Rehabilitation has to include a meaningful opportunity for Education programs.
More specifically, we want the EDUCATION, REHABILITATION AND REENTRY PREPAREDNESS BILL IMPLEMENTED THROUGHOUT THE ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
(hyperlink freealabamamovement for copy of FREEDOM BILL)