Prisoners call for boycott and work strike due to continued human rights violations and mounting deaths by the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC). This story was first published by the San Francisco Bay View.
The Alabama Department of Corrections, under the leadership of embattled and controversial commissioner Jefferson Dunn, continues to be in the news as the death toll within the prison system continues to rise. The failed prison system is set to reach another historic high in preventable deaths due to violence, as well as continuing to rank among national leaders in suicides and drug overdose deaths. At the same time, the ADOC’s lack of a plan, testing or effective response to COVID-19 is causing additional deaths.
In response to these and other conditions, the Free Alabama Movement (FAM), a civil and human rights organization founded in 2013 and led from inside the ADOC by activists incarcerated there, have issued a call for a 30-Day Economic Blackout to protest the blatant civil, human and constitutional rights violations being imposed upon the 20,000 plus men and women incarcerated in ADOC. FAM states that the ADOC is in the midst of a full-fledged humanitarian crisis, and that state leaders aren’t doing enough to preserve and protect the lives of those in its custody.
FAM’s 30-Day Blackout calls for a statewide work strike on all prison labor, which FAM contends amounts to slavery, and a boycott of prison service providers JPay, Access Corrections, Securus, ACI and Union Supply, companies that FAM states are profiting off families through exploitation, price gouging made possible through their monopoly contracts with the government.
Since its founding, the Free Alabama Movement has been at the forefront of exposing conditions inside ADOC, which have included allegations of excessive and dangerous overcrowding, state-engineered violence, drug proliferation, corruption and ethics violation, excessive force, police brutality and more.
By 2016, due to FAM’s advocacy work and activism, media coverage and exposure of Alabama’s troubled prison system had become so intense and the issues so magnified, that they could no longer be ignored. Alabama prisons were making the news for all the wrong reasons with no solutions in sight. The federal government had also received wind of the allegations being levied against ADOC, leading the DOJ to launch a full investigation into all 14 male institutions.
In April 2019, the DOJ concluded the first portion of its investigation by issuing a report declaring that the ADOC’s operational practices, inhumane living conditions, staff shortages, lack of security, and insufficient investments in education and rehabilitation, etc., amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. In July 2020, the DOJ released a second report in their investigation, this time finding that the ADOC is overrun by a culture of violence, officer brutality and corruption that extends from the top down.
FAM is demanding the following prevention actions be taken immediately by ADOC in order to save human life, or FAM promises more actions of our own:
1. Take immediate steps to drastically reduce the ADOC population down to no more than design capacity of less than 11,000, to protect lives from the spread of COVID 19.
2. Take immediate steps to address the culture of corruption and brutality, including creating a database to document and track every use of force incident by an ADOC employee. Those with a history of excessive use of force or brutality, or other ethical misconduct must be terminated immediately.
3. Admit to the drug epidemic that is engulfing ADOC, and then take IMMEDIATE action to address this major factor contributing to the humanitarian crisis going on inside ADOC.
4. Allow for unlimited free phone calls to relieve the burden of struggling and poor families during this economic crisis and global pandemic.
5. Remove Article 1, sec. 32 of the Alabama Constitution of 1901, which allows for slavery and involuntary servitude as punishment for crime.
6. Repeal Habitual Felony Offender Act and make the 2013 Sentencing Guidelines retroactive, as amended.
7. Implement good time for all.
8. Implement education and rehabilitation programs that are proven to reduce recidivism.
9. Create grievance system within ADOC that is monitored by the public and family members of the incarcerated, in order to address issues and complaints without needless litigation.
10. Create a conviction integrity unit, or wrongful conviction commission.
In the alternative, we call on the DOJ to compel the state of Alabama to comply with the constitutional mandates of the Eighth and 14th Amendment.
Free Alabama Movement is a collective of freedom fighters and human rights advocates trapped behind enemy line in Alabama, who organize work strikes, boycotts, protests and social media campaigns in the war to end prison slavery. FAM can be reached at [email protected], or you can follow them on Twitter, @freealamovement. Also, visit Free Alabama Movement on YouTube, where you can find original, exclusive content filmed direct from inside the worst prison plantation system in America.