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Prison Strike Shows the Need for Parole, Early Release and Other Reforms in Alabama Prisons

Montgomery, Ala.-- Last week, an organized prison strike began in correctional facilities throughout the state. Incarcerated people charged with cooking, cleaning and doing other tasks to take care of the facility all refused to work, even after reports of retaliatory measures from prison authorities. The strike is ongoing, and a letter released by individuals in custody demanded that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) intervene to stop the humanitarian crisis now occurring in Alabama prisons.

Other demands include reform of Alabama’s broken parole system, repeal of the Habitual Felony Offender Act, retroactivity of the presumptive sentencing guidelines, creation of a statewide conviction integrity unit, and fixes for Alabama’s complicated and under-utilized medical furlough process.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) stands with the incarcerated people in Alabama prisons and affirms these calls for change. For years we – along with our coalition partners - have advocated for more humane conditions in these facilities with recalcitrant state officials repeatedly refusing to make the situation better. A federal judge has repeatedly found that mental health services are so substandard they violate the constitution in the lawsuit, Braggs v. Dunn, which was brought by SPLC. The state has also refused to prioritize parole and sentencing reform that would decrease the population in prisons that are already overcrowded. Instead, Alabama is moving forward with the construction of mega-prisons while failing to address underlying issues including correctional staffing.

“The following is a statement from Jerome Dees, Alabama policy director for the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“No one should be surprised by the actions of Alabama citizens who are incarcerated. The state's prison system has been a moral and legal disaster for years. Alabama prisons are cruel, dangerous, and violent, as shown by accounts from incarcerated people, letters from their loved ones, and the DOJ’s own investigations. People are dying in the system right now because Alabama is willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in stimulus money to build mega-prisons, but won’t prioritize parole, early release of nonviolent offenders and other reforms that could make this situation better.

“Until officials listen to those inside our prisons and begin to address the real problem of severe overcrowding, dangerous conditions will continue. Incarcerated people will continue to suffer in prison. “This strike, as shown by its widespread nature, demonstrates the understandable frustration of those incarcerated and their desire to be heard.”