Based in Montgomery, the birthplace of the civil rights movement, we’re dedicated to reforming the state’s prison and criminal justice system, and to ending harsh policies that needlessly push young people into the “school-to-prison” pipeline.
Like many Deep South states, Alabama has embraced policies within its schools and elsewhere that funnel children needlessly into the justice system – often criminalizing ordinary youthful misbehavior. Once within the justice system, they frequently have little chance of turning their lives around. As prisoners, they are often forced to endure overcrowded, abusive and violent conditions behind bars, often while simply awaiting adjudication of their cases.
These policies disproportionately affect children of color and those with mental disabilities – and have helped fill Alabama prisons beyond capacity.
In the Alabama prison system, prisoners are suffering and dying from inhumane, unconstitutional conditions as the result of overcrowding and the state’s refusal to provide adequate medical and mental health care.
Through litigation, legislative advocacy and grassroots campaigns, we’ve helped bring reforms to this broken system. Alabama’s juvenile justice code has been rewritten, and we played a key role in detention and probation reform. Children in Alabama are no longer incarcerated for so-called “status offenses,” noncriminal offenses such as truancy and curfew violations. The state’s juvenile prison population has been dramatically reduced as a result.
We’ve worked to reform harsh school discipline policies that push children – overwhelming African American – out of school and into the justice system. In Mobile County, for example, suspensions in the state’s largest school district dropped by 50 percent following an SPLC settlement agreement designed to end the suspension of students for minor misbehavior.
We’re also working to ensure students with mental disabilities receive educational services in school required by law – services that can make the difference between incarceration and graduation. Our community advocates work with parents and local groups throughout Alabama to help parents understand their legal rights when it comes to their child’s education.
But there is much more work is ahead.
The issues are formidable, but we are steadfast in our resolve to reform these broken systems and protect the rights of Alabama’s most vulnerable residents.