At least three people held in Alabama prisons have died since thousands of inmates went on strike in September to protest poor conditions, the latest sign of a worsening state prison system that was sued by the Justice Department in 2020 over excessive violence. and his bad track record.
On Sunday, officials at the William Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama, found a 60-year-old black inmate “unresponsive” in a shared dormitory, according to state records. reported by Marshall Project.
The official said they found “no evidence to suggest trauma or foul play” in the death of the man, whose name has been identified but is not being released pending notification.
Since the strike began on September 26, two others have died in stabbings, 29-year-old Joseph Agee and 30-year-old Denarieya Smith.
Inmates across the state refused to work or leave their cells, protesting a variety of conditions inside Alabama facilities that include understaffing, few opportunities for release, widespread violence and sexual assault, drug use, suicide and a 50 percent increase hundred in inmate deaths over the past five years. At least 14 people have died in custody this year, according to the Equal Justice Initiative. The state is one of only seven in the country that does not pay inmates for their controversial work behind bars.
“Maybe they should start listening. I think they know something is wrong, but did they know we’re really sick of it? By stopping work now, we are sending this system already in crisis into another crisis,” said K Shaun Traywick, a jailed activist. The guardian.
Prisoners say state officials have responded by limiting them to two meals a day or feeding them inedible food. As work stoppages continue, garbage has piled up inside Alabama prisons, and activists say the clothes inside have been soiled for days without being washed.
In September, the Department of Corrections said in a statement that because Alabama prisons rely on inmates for much of their work, the food shortage “is not a retaliatory measure, but logistically necessary to ensure other critical services are provided.”
“I think the incarcerated population unanimously agrees that conditions inside prisons are so miserable, so desperate, so violent, chaotic, corrupt and dangerous, that something absolutely needs to change,” said Alabama journalist Beth Shelburne. The New Yorker.
“The problems of overcrowding, understaffing, violence and corruption are fundamental to our prison system and exist in every prison and jail in the United States, but in Alabama it’s all on steroids,” he added.
Addressing this crisis is an Alabama correctional system that fires employees quickly.
As of June, the state was operating with just over half the corrections officers it had authorized for its prisons.
Incarcerated activists and their allies abroad have asked the state for streamlined medical review processes, clearer parole guidelines, retroactive appeals of the state’s habitual offender law, an end to life without parole sentences and the creation of a state sentencing integrity unit to review the alarming number of valid claims of innocence in US prisons.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey called those demands “simply absurd.”
The DOJ’s lawsuit against Alabama’s prison system doesn’t go to trial until 2024.
Meanwhile, families of those inside state facilities want to sit down with Governor Ivey and top officials to end the crisis.
“How can he say that our demands are unreasonable when he has not sat down with the people, the citizens, to give us an opportunity to explain the demands that we are proposing?” Diyawn Caldwell, an activist from Alabama and founder of the grassroots group Both Sides of the Wall, said HuffPost. “Instead, he just calls them absurd from the top. He never gave us a chance to sit down and explain what we’re asking for.”
The independent reached out to the governor’s office and the Alabama Department of Corrections for comment.