Tag Archive: Alabama Department of Corrections

Supreme Court rules for Native American inmates in Alabama

Doug Dark Horns Bailey talks about trying to practice his religious beliefs during the more than 18 years he spent in prison.

Doug Dark Horns Bailey talks about trying to practice his religious beliefs during the more than 18 years he spent in prison.

From Montgomery Observer

The U.S. Supreme Court says a lower court must reconsider whether Native Americans in Alabama prisons can have longer hair.

The high court on Monday reversed an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that had upheld an Alabama Department of Corrections policy saying Native American inmates had to keep their hair cut short, which Native Americans argue deny them their right to religious expression.

As is often the case, the justices did not issue an opinion with its ruling, but ordered the 11th Circuit to reconsider the decision in light of its ruling last week in Holt v. Hobbs. In that case, the court ruled that the Arkansas Department of Correction could not deny a Muslim inmate’s request to grow a half-inch beard in accordance with his religious beliefs, saying the state had failed to show a compelling reason to deny the request.

Bob Horton, a spokesman for ADOC, said in a statement that the decision was expected.

“Until the 11th Circuit has a hearing and offers a ruling, ADOC will continue to enforce its current policy,” the statement said.


Former Tutwiler inmate says broken leg not treated for days

ledbetterFrom Corporate Media

BIRMINGHAM, AL –Imagine slipping and falling on a wet floor, suffering a painful fracture in your leg that requires surgery, but not receiving a diagnosis, treatment or even pain medication for more than three days. Imagine only having an ice pack to apply to that injury as it continues to swell, turning black and blue. Imagine being told you’re not “on the list” to see a doctor as your pain goes from severe to excruciating. Fifty-seven-year-old Susan Ledbetter doesn’t have to imagine an ordeal like that, she says she lived it.

In 2012, Ledbetter began serving almost nine months at Alabama’s Tutwiler Prison for Women for drug charges. In May 2012, she turned herself into Calhoun County authorities, pleaded guilty to second degree unlawful manufacturing of a controlled substance and in her words, “wanted to do her time and get on with her life.”

She reported to Tutwiler Prison June 1, 2012 and shortly after arriving, began working in the prison’s kitchen.

Ledbetter, a mother and grandmother, a former truck driver and bartender, has not had an easy life. We interviewed her outside her mobile home in rural Calhoun County, a home she returned to after prison with no power or running water. Her utilities were turned off while she was incarcerated and it took her months to scrape together enough money to get them turned back on. (more…)

Radical Philosophy and the Free Alabama Movement

famBy Lisa Guenther/From Truth Out

Last summer, thousands of prisoners in California launched a 60-day hunger strike to protest and transform oppressive policies in the California Department of Corrections. One member of the organizing team called their strike action a “multi-racial, multi–regional Human Rights Movement to challenge torture.”

This weekend, another prisoner-led human rights movement is gaining momentum in Alabama. The Free Alabama Movement (FAM) seeks to analyze, resist, and transform prison slavery from within the Prison Industrial Complex.

Both of these movements challenge us, as philosophers and as people, to interrogate the meaning of slavery, torture, human rights, and political action. What does it mean to struggle for one’s human rights as an “offender” in the world’s first prison society? What can philosophers and political theorists learn from the example of incarcerated intellectuals and political actors whose everyday lives are situated at the dangerous intersection of racism, economic exploitation, sexual violence, and civil death? What would it mean to respect the specificity of the Free Alabama Movement, and at the same time to recognize that even the freedom of non-incarcerated philosophers may be bound up with the freedom of Alabama? What is freedom, after all? What – and where – and who – is Alabama?

In what follows, I will share what I have learned about the Free Alabama Movement over the last couple of days. But don’t take my word for it! Check out the FAM website, which includes photos and videos of degrading prison conditions, as well as this brilliant spoken word analysis of prison slavery. Follow the movement on Facebook and Twitter. And read the 100-page manifesto written by prisoner-organizers about the situation in Alabama prisons and the movement to end prison slavery. (more…)

Inmates to strike in Alabama, declare prison is “running a slave empire”

Melvin Ray

Melvin Ray

Breaking: Reached in his cell, Free Alabama Movement leader tells Salon inmates will refuse work to end free labor

From Salon

Inmates at an Alabama prison plan to stage a work stoppage this weekend and hope to spur an escalating strike wave, a leader of the effort told Salon in a Thursday phone call from his jail cell.

“We decided that the only weapon or strategy … that we have is our labor, because that’s the only reason that we’re here,” said Melvin Ray, an inmate at the St. Clair correctional facility and founder of the prison-based group Free Alabama Movement. “They’re incarcerating people for the free labor.” Spokespeople for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and his Department of Corrections did not respond to midday inquiries Thursday. Jobs done by inmates include kitchen and laundry work, chemical and license plate production, and furniture-making. In 2011, Alabama’s Department of Agriculture reportedly discussed using inmates to replace immigrants for agricultural work; in 2012, the state Senate passed a bill to let private businesses employ prison labor.

Inmates at St. Clair and two other prisons, Holman and Elmore, previously refused to work for several days in January. A Department of Corrections spokesperson told the Associated Press at the time that those protests were peaceful, and told AL.com that some of the inmates’ demands were outside the authority of the department to address. The state told the AP that a handful of inmates refused work, and others were prevented from working by safety or weather issues. In contrast, Ray told Salon the January effort drew the participation of all of St. Clair’s roughly 1,300 inmates and nearly all of Holman’s roughly 1,100. He predicted this weekend’s work stoppage would spread further and grow larger than that one, but also accused prison officials of hampering F.A.M.’s organizing by wielding threats and sending him and other leaders to solitary confinement. “It’s a hellhole,” he told Salon. “That’s what they created these things for: to destroy men.”

To grow the movement, said Ray, “We have to get them to understand: You’re not giving up anything. You don’t have anything. And you’re going to gain your freedom right here.” (more…)

A message from an anarchist prisoner on the Alabama prison work strike



We ask that you make phone calls to the Warden, the commissioner of the Alabama Department of Correction, and the Governor of Alabama, to check on the situation, our condition, demands, and welfare.

Please call:

Warden Gary Hetzel (Holman Prison): (251) 368-8173
Commissioner Kim Thomas (Alabama DOC) (334) 353-3870
Governor Robert J. Bentley: (334) 242-7100

From Anarchy Live!

Clenched-fist salute!

I’m Michael and yes, I’m locked down in one of Amerika’s many prisons in the state of Alabama. But that does not excuse me from the struggle for a better world. And I believe that anarchism is the best alternative to what exists now. I believe this without reservations. Anarchism is not about building state power, but rather, destroying the state and building new humyn relationships based on mutual aid and cooperation and freedom.

I’m not a public speaker, but a warrior in the struggle to build that new humyn relationship, mutual aid, cooperation, and freedom from all coercive power, rather than a soldier, because a soldier is someone who is ordered about without thinking for him/herself in a hierarchical structure. A tool of a ruling power.

Right now there is a struggle going on in Alabama’s prisons demanding a change in the horrendous, unsanitary, and inhumane conditions in the prisons. In the prison I’m at, Holman, birds fly around the kitchen dropping bird shit on prisoners and/or their food, industrial light fixtures are falling from the ceiling injuring at least one prisoner seriously, during the winter months the showers are cold, the dorms are also cold in the winter, inadequate medical care, inadequate outdoors exercise time, inadequate nutrition, harassment of family members during visiting hours, and a host of other serious problems too numerous to list (see Justice or Just Business for more). But most of all, we are fighting and struggling for our dignity and humanity. (more…)

New York Times Covers Prison Rape In Alabama

Monica Washington gave birth while in the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Ala. Her daughter, KaMyrrie, left, lives near Montgomery with a relative, Brenda Singleton, right.

Monica Washington gave birth while in the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Ala. Her daughter, KaMyrrie, left, lives near Montgomery with a relative, Brenda Singleton, right.

From The New York Times

WETUMPKA, Ala. — For a female inmate, there are few places worse than the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.

Corrections officers have raped, beaten and harassed women inside the aging prison here for at least 18 years, according to an unfolding Justice Department investigation. More than a third of the employees have had sex with prisoners, which is sometimes the only currency for basics like toilet paper and tampons.

But Tutwiler, whose conditions are so bad that the federal government says they are most likely unconstitutional, is only one in a series of troubled prisons in a state system that has the second-highest number of inmates per capita in the nation. (more…)

Alabama Women’s Prison Still Guilty of Sexual Abuse

tutwilerFrom The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Department of Corrections officials and Gov. Robert Bentley’s office say they had been working to improve conditions at Julia Tutwiler Prison before a federal investigation found evidence of inmates being sexually abused by staff and fellow prisoners.

A report from the U.S. Department of Justice said instances of sexual abuse at the hands of prison staff and others have been underreported for nearly 20 years. The report also said jail staff condoned a strip show inside the facility and would deliberately watch inmates shower and use the restroom.

Federal officials visited the prison in April and recently sent their findings to Bentley in a 36-page letter. Investigators have said prisoners there fear for their safety. (more…)