How Many Children in Alabama’s Juvenile Detention Facilities are at risk of Death from COVID-19?

APRIL 9, 2020

PRESS STATEMENT

IMMEDIATE PUBLIC RELEASE

FROM: FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT

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:

  1. How many children are currently in the custody of Alabama’s juvenile detention facilities?
  2. What are the conditions that these children are being detained in as it relates to COVID 19?
  3. 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?
  4. What type of safety precautions are in place to protect these children from COVID 19?
  5. Has Alabama released any children from juvenile detention facilities due to COVID 19? If not, why?
  6. Are these children being provided masks, gloves, soaps, hand sanitizers, and other PPEs?
  7. 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?
  8. 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?
  9. 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

#FREEOURCHILDREN

 

Justice for The Gadsden 6

Justice for The Gadsden 6

Gadsden 6 photogrid

Clockwise from top left: Roland Martin, Melvin Ray, Fred Brown, Steve Stewart, Curtis Richardson, Archie Hamlet

Introduction

When Children are exploited by the Juvenile Justice System in Alabama

Thirty-one years ago on March 24, 1988, six Black children, all under the age of 17, Fred Brown, Archie Hamlet, Roland Martin, Melvin Ray, Curtis Richardson and Steve Stewart, were arrested by Gadsden police in the early morning hours around 1:00 am, for a department store burglary. After their arrest, these six children were taken to the police station for a three-hours long interrogation. The children were not represented by attorneys and their parents were not present during this interrogation.

The interrogations were conducted by an all-white group of 4 to 6 detectives. When the interrogation was completed around 4:00 am, these children were charged with over 30 felony offenses involving several unsolved burglaries in Gadsden.

Just a few hours after this early-morning interrogation ended, police and the district attorney’s office then marched these children into court for an initial appearance hearing that quickly turned into a full fledged probable cause detention hearing. None of the children were represented in court by an attorney, and none of their parents were present. It was just the judge, police, and the D.A.

At the hastily erected probable cause detention hearing, which was orchestrated by the juvenile court judge, the DA and police, the judge allowed the D.A. to stipulate to probable cause on behalf of all six children to ALL 30-plus charges pending against them.
This illegal probable cause stipulation would then be used to justify continued detention of these children and removal from their homes, parents and siblings.

Juvenile Court Judge Robert E. Lewis’ order states:

“At detention hearing probable cause stipulated to and child ordered detained. . .”

Copy of Melvin Ray's Detention Hearing sheet

Copy of Melvin Ray’s Detention Hearing sheet

As the above court record shows, attorneys were not appointed until April 6, 1988, two full weeks after the arrest and “probable cause” stipulation were made.

Meanwhile, the Gadsden 6 remained in detention for over a month, until April 27, 1988, when the juvenile court judge granted the prosecutor’s motion to transfer these children to adult court. The juvenile court judge granted the prosecutor’s motion to transfer on the same day that it was filed, without conducting a transfer hearing or even notifying anyone that the motion had been filed.

None of the children were present when this motion was heard, no one was served notice of the prosecutor’s motion, the children did not have legal representation to review the motion or present evidence in their behalf, and none of their parents were present when the motion was heard or granted. Injustice was administered behind closed doors when no one was looking…

On to Adult Court…

Once in adult court, the Gadsden 6 were given an ultimatum: plead guilty to all charges and go home that day with sentences of time served and probation, or take a chance on trial and spend the next decade of their lives in prison. The authorities in Gadsden saddled these young black children with over 20 adult felony convictions that would follow them for the rest of their lives, and through a process that guaranteed injustice, as no one was present during the juvenile proceedings to protect the constitutional rights of these children or the parental rights of their parents.

These illegally prior felony convictions have been used in subsequent adult proceedings to enhance many of the Gadsden 6’s sentences under Alabama’s draconian habitual felony offender law, resulting in an additional 50-plus years of illegal time being served, including two instances where life without parole was illegally imposed.

Join the Gadsden 6’s demand for justice !!!

  1. All proceedings and convictions be declared null and void and removed from their records.
  2. All records in juvenile and adult court be expunged.
  3. Compensation and acknowledgement of the wrongful nature of the proceedings used against them, including full legal pardons.

Sign our petition to the Alabama Legislature and the Alabama courts to rectify this injustice put upon the Gadsden 6 by the Gadsden Police Department, the Gadsden DA, and the Juvenile & Adult Divisions of the Circuit Court of Etowah County, Alabama.

Follow the GADSDEN 6 on Facebook @ Justice For The Gadsden 6.

Gadsden 6 Supporters at Courtroom 29 July 2019

Gadsden 6 Supporters at the Montgomery Courtroom, 29 July 2019

July 29, 2019 court hearing in Montgomery, AL

Justice for the Gadsden 6 poster

Justice for the Gadsden 6 poster

Juvenile Justice: How 6 black children were set up for failure in Gadsden, Ala

On March 24, 1988, six black (6) teens (Roland Martin, Fred Brown, Steve Stewart, Melvin Ray, Archie Hamlet, and Curtis Richardson) were arrested in the early morning hours after an attempted burglary of a department store in Gadsden, Alabama.

After being arrested, the youth were all taken to a police station where they were interrogated by several officers (all white) for several hours. By the time the interrogations ended, well after 3:00 am, the youth were charged collectively  with over 30 counts (appx. 5 to 6 counts each ) for many other unsolved burglaries in Gadsden. These children did not have any attorney present during these interrogations and no attempt was made to contact any of their parents until after the interrogations had ended.image

Some parents were reached, some weren’t.

    Later that same morning, these 6 children were taken before a judge for a “probable cause hearing.”  None of the parents attended this impromptu hearing. And, none of the youth were represented by counsel. Somehow, with no opportunity to be heard, without any counsel, and with little to no evidence beyond the word of the police officers, the judge allowed for probable cause to be stipulated to for all 6 youth. image
It is not known who the court allowed to stipulate to anything in behalf of the Gadsden 6 youth, but the record clearly shows that this is what occurred. We know that children could not stipulate to probable cause or anything else for themselves, and we know that no lawyers were appointed in the case until weeks later, in April; so the stipulation was not made by an attorney.

As a result of this stipulation, all 6 children were ordered to be detained in detention facilities pending further proceedings.

The next event to take place in these proceedings took place on April 6, 1988, when attorney J.B. Lofton was appointed. 

This appointment of counsel came after these children had already been before a judge and after the court had already authorized custody to be taken from the parents.
Finally, with counsel now appointed, the judge set a hearing for April 28, 1988, and for the first time, issued notice and summons’ to the parents. image
However, on April 27, 1988, just one day before the hearing was scheduled, the prosecutor filed a motion to transfer all of the cases of the children to the circuit court for prosecution as adults (for all non-violent property offenses). The juvenile judge granted pprosecutor’s motion that same day that it was filed !!!

The children were all transferred to adult without a hearing, without a lawyer being present, and without any of the children or their parents being present. In fact, apparently  no one but the judge and the prosecutor ( the same two parties from the March 24 probable cause “stipulation” hearing) were even aware that such motion had even been filed. Proof that the attorney did not perform any services throughout these proceedings can be gleamed from the fact that his declaration for fees was voided right after it was filed.image
In the end, these children suffered convictions in adult court for offenses that they never had legal representation on at critical stages of the proceedings , namely, during the interrogations and initial arrest, at the probable cause hearing when someone was allowed to stipulate to probable cause in behalf of the children, and when judge granted the prosecutor’s motion to transfer the cases to adult court. Of course, all of this was/is illegal.image

All or most of these children suffered collateral consequences as a result of the actions taken in the juvenile court, including having these illegal prior convictions used against them both in and out of court, including two of whom who have had these illegal non- violent prior convictions  used to enhance future sentences to Life Without Parole under Alabama’s Habitual Felony Offender Act.

We are asking that you support the Gadsden 6 as they fight for Juvenile Justice in Alabama.
WRONGFUL CONVICTIONS ALABAMA