There is a state-sponsored humanitarian crisis in Alabama. Inmates are forced to work in overcrowded conditions for mere pennies while being denied visitation, food, and other basic human rights. They live in severely overcrowded conditions. Inside the prisons conditions continue to deteriorate and deaths are mounting so quickly it’s difficult to keep track of numbers. This year alone, over 200 inmates have lost their lives inside Alabama prisons. 

Due to overcrowding, inmates recently engaged in a strike against their living conditions. In retaliation, visitation privileges were suspended and a holiday meal schedule where only breakfast and lunch were served, was implemented. Inmates reported overhearing guards saying “if they don’t work, starve them”. The Alabama Department of Corrections August monthly statistical report states that 204 inmates have died this year. This number does not include staff-on-inmate homicides or other inmate deaths still pending investigation. Deaths are mounting quickly with no end in sight.

The parole rate is so low (11% for FY22), that people have lost hope for a chance of release. In Alabama, candidates for parole are not allowed to attend their own parole hearing and instead must rely on family or friends to attend the hearings and advocate for them. “Prisoners feel like there is no way out except in a body bag.” – Reverend Kenneth Glasgow June 6, 2019. 

Without a chance for parole, there is no hope. There is no incentive for good behavior or following the rules if there is no path to restoring your freedom.  We recently spoke to a prison strike organizer inside the Limestone Correctional Facility and he had this to say: “I’m concerned that if conditions do not improve this could turn violent and corrections officers will be hurt in the process.” – Kinetik Justice.

Rev. Glasgow is one of the organizers of the prison strike. He was previously a driving force behind restoring voting rights for felons who had been convicted of committing victimless crimes. Rev. Glasgow is now being prosecuted for “conspiracy to distribute drugs, tax fraud, and mail fraud”. Rev. Glasgow maintains his innocence: “I am being charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs. Tax and mail fraud are still pending federal charges. And they’re telling me that if I don’t take the deal they’re going after my 76 year old mother, Moma Tina (with Moma Tina’s soup kitchen), my daughter, and my organization, TOPs“. 

For almost two years, there has been a lawsuit against the State of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Corrections by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ filed this lawsuit  under the premise that the 8th and 14th amendments are being violated by the Alabama Prison System. The DOJ attempted to enter the prison system this fall to investigate conditions and were denied access. Overcrowding is one of the main factors that drives the conditions that are cited in the DOJ report. “When you have 8 showers to be used by 120 people it creates conflict. If you have a system designed to hold 13,000 people but you cram 25,000 people into one system you’re going to have problems.” – Kinetik Justice.

In response to overcrowding, Alabama diverted $400 million of COVID relief funds to build three more mega-prisons. But building more prisons is not the solution. We must end the incarceration of people for victimless crimes. For example, Willie Simmons was sentenced to life without parole in 1982 for stealing $9. “The number one driving factor could be addressed right now, but nobody is talking about the arbitrary laws that have put us here. Nobody is thinking of the people.” – Kinetik Justice 

What’s the price of a human life? We still live in a world where you can be forced into a life of state sponsored slavery. In Alabama, the price of a life is $9. 

Authors: Jonathan Realz, Reverend Kenneth Glasgow, Danielle Shamp, Amanda Gibbs, Dave Jones, Darren Pollok.

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