Inmates at Alabama’s Notorious Macabre Prisons Strike

  • Thousands of inmates in Alabama are choosing not to work in an effort to protest the state’s prison system.
  • Swift Justice, who is incarcerated, argues that ADOC does not rehabilitate inmates as it should.
  • The organizers of the labor strike say there is no end in sight.

Alabama’s prison system is known for its poor conditions and overcrowding. And now, thousands of inmates in each of Alabama’s 15 state prisons have decided enough is enough.

Inmates have been abstaining from unpaid work inside prisons since September 26, forcing prison staff to take over work that would normally be done by inmates.

As the Marshall Project notes, inmates may be asked to cook, clean and do laundry — or in some cases, do non-facility-related tasks such as call centers.

Inmates are demanding a review of sentencing and parole measures — including repealing the Habitual Offenders Act and establishing and maintaining fair parole criteria. The prison reform organization Both Sides of the Wall organized the strike, and they have previously held demonstrations protesting inmate conditions inside Alabama prisons.

“I’m just a slave. I’m inside the prison system,” Swift Justice, an inmate at Fountain Correctional Facility in Atmore, a small town bordering Florida, told Insider.

Swift says their requests could ease the burden on the system by freeing inmates who have served their time. About 90 percent of parole requests are denied in Alabama, according to the state’s ACLU, as the presence of new inmates adds to poor conditions in already overcrowded prisons.

Swift told Insider that “those who participated in this historic event are tired of being treated as less than animals and are demanding that their humanity be restored.”

Going to prison in the state is an automatic death sentence, according to Christina McGee, whose husband is incarcerated in an Alabama prison.

“These people have no chance of recovery,” McGee told Insider. He said inmates are more likely to “fall into a body bag” than out of the system. “Because the Alabama Department of Corrections, whatever your sentence is, it’s automatically become a death sentence. These people have no chance of doing anything, and they’ve lost hope.”

A jury convicted her husband of first-degree sexual abuse of a child under 12 and attempted first-degree sexual abuse of a child under 12 in 2019, according to court documents.

Diyawn Caldwell, another strike organizer whose husband is incarcerated, sent Insider several videos showing conditions in some of the prisons. A video showed guards beating, chasing and then beating a handcuffed inmate at the St. Clair in Springville, Alabama. And another video showed a facility full of trash bags and trash at the Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore. A third video showed a flooded cell in St. Clair with an inmate saying “Day two my shit was like this, man.

McGee said she bonded with Caldwell when her incarcerated husband was stabbed in May. Caldwell’s husband is in jail for murder and witness intimidation, according to the ADOC.

Swift said some inmates faced retaliation for not working, including his mentor, Kinetic Justice. Kinetich had been beaten by police officers and placed in solitary confinement for his influence on the strike and inmates, Swift said.

Swift added that inmates at his facility are fed meals twice a day. When combined, both meals come in under 1,000 calories, he added. Other facilities have reported similar situations.

“We need to be restored and we need to get out of here otherwise,” Swift said, but conditions inside make that impossible.

The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in 2020 against the State of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Corrections alleging constitutional violations — specifically, the violation of the Eight Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment.

The Department found that Alabama’s prisons are at 182% capacity and are experiencing an excessive number of rapes and murders.

“We’re not saying we haven’t committed a crime and deserve to just go away, but we’re demanding that not only lawmakers but society look like human beings and not see us as throwaways,” Swift continued.

He said that by protesting peacefully the prisoners hope to show society and lawmakers that “we are civilized.”

“That’s why we choose to do what we do in a peaceful way. Because, as everyone knows, we’re outnumbered, even if it was fully staffed. We’re outnumbered,” Swift continued.

A spokesman for Gov. Kay Ivey’s office said Monday that the inmates’ demands “are unreasonable and would not be welcome in Alabama,” but strike organizers say they see no end in sight.

“Their constitutional rights are being violated every day and nobody is doing anything about it. We are standing up and letting them know. They are standing up and letting them know “We will no longer tolerate the system as it is. Caldwell said.

“We wanted to fight for everyone behind the wall, men and women, all of them. Because it’s not just happening to our husbands, it’s happening to everyone,” McGee added.

Governor Ivey’s office did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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