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

FREE DA F.A.M. 3

Photo of Free Alabama Movement 3 and text Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.

Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.

PART 3

FREE THE F.A.M. 3: Non Violent and Peaceful Demonstrations threatened ADOC’s “Violent Culture of Control” Policies

FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT
P.O. BOX 186
NEW MARKET, AL 35761

Phone: 256-985-1126

freealabamamovement@gmail.com
http://www.freealabamamovement.com

“FREEDOM OR DEATH. AINT NUTHIN ELSE. . . STOP PLAYING WITH THE CONCEPT.”  Dhati

Ever since solitary confinement came into existence, it has been used as a tool of repression.

While it is justified by corrections officials as necessary to protect prisoners and guards from violent super predators, all too often it is imposed on individuals, particularly prisoners of color, who threaten prison administrations in an altogether different way. Consistently, jailhouse lawyers and jailhouse doctors, who administer to the needs of their fellow prisoners behind bars, are placed in solitary confinement. They are joined by political prisoners from various civil rights and independence movements.”

And that’s exactly what Alabama is doing with their Solitary Confinement- using it to repress and torture anyone that speaks the words FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT. For exposing Alabama’s on going Human Rights violation  James Pleasant, Robert Earl Council and Melvin  Ray were targeted, singled out and labeled “threats to the security of the ADOC,” then placed in Solitary Confinement with indeterminate sentences.

At the time that these men made their decisions to address the ongoing Civil and Human Rights violations that were apparent in the ADOC, the prisons were historically overcrowded, there was a wave of violence brewing statewide throughout the prisons, living conditions were deplorable, food and healthcare we severely substandard and causing many illnesses and death, and the prison administrators, commissioners, and wardens were all refusing to respond and address the complaints.

Then, on January 1, 2014, under the banner of FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT, a Non-Violent and Peaceful Protest for Civil and Human Rights was launched at Holman  Prison, as over 1000 men went on shutdown [work stoppage].

Three days later, on January 4, 2014, 1300 more at St. Clair Prison joined in.  These demonstrations remained peaceful the entire time. ADOC officials  acknowledged to the AP that these demonstrations were peaceful:

“On Saturday, Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett acknowledged to the Associated Press that since New Year’s Day, at least some prisoners have refused to work in kitchen and laundry areas and perform other jobs.”

“Corbett told the AP that the protests at the St. Clair and Holman Correctional facilities have been peaceful . . .”

[http://alreporter.com/in-case-you-missed-it-2/5571-alabama-prisoners-strike-continues.html]

Unfortunately for approximately 8 families with loved ones in ADOC, these peaceful ended too soon, because over the course of the next 14 months after the demonstrations ended, with no intervention or improvements from ADOC, approximately 8 men were killed. and hundreds more have been stabbed.

* Our beloved Lil Mook, Marquette Cummins, who came to prison at 17 lost his physical life on January 6, 2015, on the second day of the shutdown. His Spirit lives on and serves as a reminder to us all that we must bring these prisons to an end because they ccontinue to take life, yet give nothing of value in return.

ST CLAIR DEATHSAlso, at the same time that these peaceful demonstrations were concluding, the US DOJ issued a report detail the two-decades long horror story that emanated from Julia Tutwiler Women’s Prison in Wetumpka, AL.

According to the report, which was completed after a long investigation, the women confined at Tutwiler had been raped, impregnated, sexually assaulted, abused and exploited for sex for over two decades. Children were born. Children were aborted. Women were beaten and raped, and it was estimated that at least 1/3 of the ENTIRE corrections staff had been involved in the abuses. In that time, less than 10 officers has been prosecuted, and the most time handed out was 6 months, with one officer getting 5 days.

Now, approximately 14 months later, and exclusively for organizing a “non-violent and peaceful protest”, these three men, Robert Earl Council, James Pleasant, and Melvin Ray, have all been labelled a “security threat”. In addition, F.A.M. and the family members and supporters, including those who had lost a loved one to the violence and who were supporting F.A.M.’s call for an end to the violence, were also labelled as a security threat.

Under ADOC rules, violence such as riots, assaults, destroying property, etc., all fall under security threats. In fact, under ADOC rules, a person who commits a murder while in ADOC custody must serve 30 [months] in solitary confinement. Yet, the people who are trying to stop this avoidable and senseless loss of life are subjected to indefinitely periods of solitary confinement. In other words, if any member of the F.A.M. 3 were guilty of committing a murder, they could look to be released from segregation in a definite period of time of 30 months, but for engaging in peaceful protests against the conditions that lead to violence and murder, these men became “security threats.”

Not a single ADOC rules prohibits “Non-Violent and Peaceful” demonstrations. In fact, the right to peacefully assemble is guaranteed and protected by the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In response to the protests, in light of the conditions that were exposed by F.A.M. on social media like YouTube and Facebook, Gov. Bentley and Sen. Cam Ward created a Prison Reform Task Force and have since verified EVERY issue that F.A.M. complained of.

Additionally, EJI followed the demonstrations by filing a lawsuit about the violence at St. Clair, were hundreds of people have been assaulted, including one person by the warden, Carter Davenport, who has since been reassigned to another prison (he was a Captain at Tutwiler during the rapes, etc.). The SPLC has filed a lawsuit on the healthcare against ADOC after the demonstrations.

When Gov. Bentley, Sen. Cam Ward, Chief Justice Roy Moore, Attn General Luther Strange and other state officials acknowledged the problems within ADOC that were exposed by F.A.M., THEY were not labelled security threats. When al.com confirmed that Warden Davenport was the root of the violence at St. Clair they were not labelled a security threat. When the US DOJ reported on the abuses at Tutwiler, they were not labelled a security threat.

But when the people who live in the violence, the very people who are forced to live in the inhumane and uncivil conditions complain about the violence with -non-violent and peaceful protests”, they are labelled a threat to security, even where the violence levels, understaffing, and decrepit conditions show that there is NO SECURITY TO THREATEN, and certainly none to threaten with “Non-Violent and Peaceful Protests!!!

Join F.A.M. as we demand answers from ADOC and other Alabama officials about why these men are being punished for complaining about these ongoing civil and human rights violations.

#INCARCERATEDBLACKLIVESMATTERTOO

#freedafam3

SENATE BILL 67: REFORM OR RACKET TO EXPLOIT CRIME AND MORE POOR FAMILIES

FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT
By Melvin Ray
freealabamamovement@gmail.com
http://www.freealabamamovement.com

After over a year of research, meetings, studies and other expenditures of tax-payer funds, the Council of State Government (CSG) and the Alabama Prison Reform Task Force (PRTF) have given the Alabama people Senate Bill 67 as the solution to the issues in Alabama prisons and the state’s criminal justice system.

The PRTF and CSG got off to a controversial start when it was revealed that of the 25-member task force, not a single African American male would be part of the decision making process, deliberations, or considerations of the group. Being a black man, the hypocrisy of this struck me from the beginning: Black men, who make up approximately 13% of the total state population, are approximately 60% of the total prison population.

Note** The U.S. GOVERNMENT Bureau of Statistics, shows that 70%% of all crimes ccommitted in the U.S. are ccommitted by white people.

So, this means that the families and communities most affected by the prison and judicial system are black. Yet, in a way that only a state like Alabama can explain, not a single black man was invited to discuss what solutions would be best to fix a problem that has been created by people who look just like the CSG committee and the PRTF — predominately white men.

Alabama prisons currently hold over 30,000 people in space designed to hold less than 14,000 people. Of this 30,000, approximately 80% of ALL people who enter into ADOC are functionally illiterate — or worse. Most of these people are young, poor, unskilled, and addicted to some type of drug. The problems made manifest in such a setting are predictable and expected.

Overcrowding serves to breed problems:

MALNUTRITION

First, the budget is fixed to serve just over 13,000 , while the prisons hold 30,000-plus. With low budgets, the cheap, undercooked food being served lacks nutrition, inadequate portions, and consists mainly of processed foods. In a word, the people in Alabama prisons are malnourished.

UNSANITARY WATER SUPPLY

The water system in Alabama’s prisons was designed to filter and serve less than 14,000  people. So imagine what happens when this system is overburdened with 30,000-plus people. First, the water is not properly filtered before it enters back into the prisons. This contaminated drinking water is the major contributor to most ailments in Alabama prisons.

Food isn’t properly cleaned. Bodies aren’t cleaned. Clothes aren’t properly cleaned. Thus, diseases, infections, cancers, and deaths ensue.

Then, you have people literally stacked on top of each other. This breeds other problems: frustration, depression, and mental illnesses.

Untreated mental, emotional, psychological and addiction issues lead invariably to violent settings. St. Clair prison is Exhibit A in this crisis.

Death and disease are so widespread due to inadequate resources for meaningful healthcare.

Quarantines for outbreaks of TB, scabies, and Staph (and now food-food-poisoning) are now common protocols.

Sometimes, staff, family members who visit, lawyers, and people in the prisons aren’t even informed of outbreaks due to delays in detection.

Then, you have the actual living conditions. Filth is everywhere. The water supply is contaminated. Showers are almost always cold due to overuse because the water system wasn’t designed for so many people. Cleanliness is a constant issue. Mold, mildew, rats, roaches, spiders, snakes, and bugs are in every crack and crevice. Repairs to all areas of the infrastructure are needed, with some prisons being over 40 years old.

Health, food, and fire inspectors are rarely seen. When they are present, they are not doing their jobs of accurately reporting on the wholesale violations that are so prevalent.

However, when one examines SB 67, one doesn’t see a single one of these issues being addressed.
The human costs and abuse associated with reform needs are being totally ignored because no one cares about the inhumane, uncivilized treatment of men and women in prison. And certainly not those in Alabama’s prisons, who are majority black and all poor.

In fact, the PRTF is calling for 2,000 more beds to be added to existing facilities. Senator Cam Ward has stated that the goal is to reduce overcrowding to 140%, which courts have said is acceptable. But the question to ask is: why can a state Senator openly say that his goal is to violate a health/fire code for maximum occupancy, and feel no consequences whatsoever? Where is the Fire Marshall to remind Senator Ward that fire codes are to be strictly complied with, including occupancy rates? A Fire Marshall will close down a night club, a basketball arena, or a restaurant for being over-capacity, but here we see that the law doesn’t apply to the prisons.

Instead, it is the *goal* of Alabama officials to have a illegal, overcrowded prison system and the Fire Marshall says nothing.

SB 67 doesn’t address any of these issues. Sen. Cam Ward and his cabal have sat down as if they were doctors, to solve a problem without asking their patients a single question about what is wrong or what could be done to fix the problems. To my knowledge, the PRTF did not enter into a single prison and ask the occupants about our issues, where the problems areas are, or what solutions we see as being needed. Nor did they enter into a single black community, which is where mass incarceration has had it worst effects, to see how these issues should be addressed. White men in Alabama are not accustomed to consulting Black men on problems, even those problems created by white men that disproportionately affect black men, like mass incarceration.

Some Alabama prisons house in excess of 1,000 people – most of whom are illiterate – and don’t even provide a GED program, let alone sustainable job skills programs. There are currently no gang-intervention programs, no community volunteer programs at the community custody facilities, no Life Skills programs – and SB 67 is not calling for any of them. These are programs that most Black community leaders, religious leaders, mothers, and fathers will tell you that our communities need from the ADOC while they are holding these men for decades at a time. Yet, Senator Ward doesn’t see a need for Black voices on the PRTF or the all-white CSG.

In Alabama, where uneducated people fill the system, education is neither encouraged nor mandated. A person with a 10-year Sentence with no GED, skill or trade, and who has a known drug or alcohol addiction, does not have to attend school, learn a skill or trade, participate in any program — and can still earn Incentive Good Time. How can a person earn “good time” if they are not actively addressing their shortcomings and issues that lead them to prison in the first place?

As for the Alabama Parole Board, one has to wonder just how much longer the charade can go on. In 2015, they still don’t allow a person to attend their own hearing. We can watch Satellite television, use Tango and Skype, but the Parole Board still can’t find a way to hear from the person (not a file) going up for parole.

The hearing itself is a show of power and disrespect. The parolee gets all of two speakers, who each get  5 minutes to speak. A person who has made 20 years of change has to have someone else try to communicate that change in 2 five-minute exchanges. Then, the victim of the crime gets to speak.

They get unlimited speakers, for an unlimited time. If a victim can’t attend, no problem. Hired speakers (called Victim’s Advocates), on tax-payer dime, can speak. Again, they are not restricted by any time constraints, whatsoever.

The facts of the crime are already known. A parole hearing is supposed to be about what changes the person has made to show that they have learned from their mistake, improved themselves, and are now prepared for another chance at society.

The parole board sits on the file for decades, and never even sets out a curriculum for what they expect to see from a person vying for parole. It is all a tax-payer funded dog-and-pony show scam.

SB 67 is nothing more than an expansion of the scheme.

SB 67 is joining the nationwide, elaborate money grab operation (that once again is being funded by tax dollars) fueled by discriminatory practices in arrest, conviction, sentencing, and parole, and in the end, financial exploitation. Multiple “private prison” companies, “non-profit” organizations and community corrections companies will rely on more convictions, parole and probation violations, alternative sentencing, and the like to tax, fine, fee, and charge poor people til death.

So-called “regional” jails will be built for private jail operators to receive even more tax payer funds.
Work release-style facilities will be created – where SB 67 authorizes up to 65% of gross earning to be deducted from the paychecks of already poor people – to go into the pockets of the “community corrections” companies that will charge to serve as collection agencies.

The kickbacks from these contracts will be in the form of campaign contribution to people like Senator Cam Ward.

The greatest benefit from SB 67 will continue to be the massive amounts of free labor that is being exploited from the men and women in Alabama prisons. These prison industries, funded by tax dollars, are generating billions of dollars in revenue. However, no one knows how large these industries are, or where all of the products or money from these industries are going.

For example, Alabama Correctional Industries runs a $25 million-dollar chemical plant at St. Clair prison. Where is that money going to? ADOC has a cattle ranch and a fish pond. Where is all beef and fish going? It certainly isn’t making its way to the kitchens in the prisons. Elmore runs the largest recycling plant in the State. Where are the proceeds?

And in spite of all of this free labor, no credit is deducted from the sentence. No deductions from the fines or court costs that a person may have. No deductions for child support that continues to accrue, even though the father or mother is working 8, 10, 12 hours days for free or pennies in wages.

In addition to this, a person who is forced to work for free every day also must pay a medical co-pay when they get sick. Where is this money supposed to come from? That is where the exploitation of our families comes in, because when they do send us money, the State deducts their “charges” first and we get what’s left.

SB 67 is nothing more than a continuation of these practices, only now the exploitation is moving away from the prisons and closer to the communities.

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

Free Alabama Movement

*For Immediate Release*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

ADOC officials issue death threat to FAM members as unrest continues in Alabama prisons statewide

On Jan. 22, 2015 – at Holman Prison Seg. Unit – unbearable living conditions caused myself and several of my comrades to take a stand for our well-being.

Due to my Membership Affiliation with the FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT i was singled out and targeted (AGAIN) by Holman’s administrative officials because I wanted justice. I was extracted out of the cell and taken to the Admin. Shift office where i was questioned for hours. After refusing time and time again to work with the Administration to quiet the unrest by the youth, Captain Darryl Fails issued a death threat to myself, Mr. Robert E. Council, and Spokesperson Melvin Ray stating that he wish there was not so much media hype around what goes on in prison b/c they would love to do to us what they used to get away with yrs ago and they would silence us for good.

Warden Walter Myers agreed and said, “yeah, they lucky!” In turn i replied, “yall gonna have to kills us b/c it’s FREEDOM OR DEATH aint NOTHING else.” Seeing that fear was not a factor, i was dismissed.

It is Our Youth of FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT that makes us GREAT!!!

By Spokesperson Ray

FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT will and always has been a Movement by our Youth and for our Youth. I admire and respect this “next” generation that I have had the privilege and opportunity to be around and share values, knowledge and learn with.

I remember the formative stages on F.A.M. here at St. Clair, and it was the Youth who inspired, encouraged and supported this Movement, and I have unquestioned Faith that one or more of these young men will rise up and take complete control and leadership of this Movement against this system of mass incarceration and prison slavery that they have been educated about and are now beginning to understand and organize against.

Thousands of our Youth have saw their lives destroyed by a system without cause. They will not remain idle to these effects, nor will they stand by and allow their Genocide to continue on forever. In 2015, the struggle will continue . . . and the talented and brilliant Youth will continue to step forward and lead FREE ALABAMA MOVEMENT!!

ALUTA CONTINUA