Inmates in the state of Alabama are banning together to protest for better living conditions. On Tuesday, several inmates located in multiple prisons across Alabama went on strike citing unsafe conditions inside some of the state’s male-dominated prisons. Now, some of the inmates are refusing to do their daily jobs, until their demands are met.
During an interview with local news station WBRC, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Jay Town, revealed some of the troubling conditions that detainees and prison staff are currently being forced to endure.
“It is no secret in the state of Alabama that the prison conditions are less than ideal,” Town explained. “In addition to sexual and physical violence that goes on routinely inside the male facilities, the facilities themselves are dilapidated. They’re deteriorating, they are unsafe. Whether the plumbing isn’t working or the showers aren’t working. We need better prisons in Alabama. There really is no other way to say it.”
Town said that issue has led to tragic downsizing of prison staff over the years. “Those people are not going to be willing to go work as a prison guard or someone who works in prison administration if the facilities themselves are dilapidated and terrible and it’s an awful place to work because of all the violence going on,” he added.
Protestors gather outside the Alabama Department of Corrections to support inmates
On Monday, a group of protestors and prison reform collectives rallied outside of the Alabama Department of Corrections to support the inmates. Organizers from the Alabama Prison Advocacy & Incarcerated Families United Group were also present. During the rally, the activists held up signs urging the ADOC to respond to the demand for change. They also came bearing a few prison reform-related requests from prisoners inside. One photo captured by news anchor Erin Davis, showed a flyer with inmates demanding for “mandatory parole criteria that guarantees parole to all eligible inmates” and “end to life without parole sentences.”
Alabama’s prison crisis has been boiling over since 2020 when the Justice Department filed a massive lawsuit against the State of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Corrections demanding better prison conditions. In the suit, the DOJ accused the state of violating the Constitution and of failing to provide adequate protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence as well as safe and sanitary prison conditions. The suit also alleged that at times, prison staff used “excessive force” with inmates that showed a violation of conduct.
“The United States Constitution requires Alabama to make sure that its prisons are safe and humane,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division in a statement. The Department of Justice conducted a thorough investigation of Alabama’s prisons for men and determined that Alabama violated and is continuing to violate the Constitution because its prisons are riddled with prisoner-on-prisoner and guard-on-prisoner violence. The violations have led to homicides, rapes, and serious injuries.”
Prisoners at New York’s Rikers Island are also facing squalid living conditions
Unfortunately, prisoners in Alabama aren’t the only ones fighting for better facility conditions. Over the last year, horrific stories have been making headlines about New York’s Rikers Island. Multiple cases of violence, death and abuse have been reported in recent months. On Wednesday, The Gothamist published a harrowing article that showed some of the horrific conditions in which detainees are being held.
One image in the article showed a man who, “defecated on himself nine hours prior,” standing in a cramped cell as he waited for prison staff to bring a change of clothing. In the photo, another inmate can be seen laying on the ground, of the feces smeared jail cell. In another picture obtained by The Gothamist, trash and stagnant water could be seen piling up inside Riker’s Enhanced Supervision Housing unit.
Community leaders and prison reform activists have been putting pressure on Mayor Adams to close Rikers by 2027, but back in August, he expressed hesitancy about the idea.
“We have to have a plan B, because those who have created plan A, that I inherited, obviously didn’t think about a plan B,” Adams told reporters during a public hearing in August. “If we don’t drop down the prison population the way they thought we were, what do we do – no one answered that question.”
There are currently more than 5,000 inmates being held at Riker’s, many of whom are being held pretrial in the prison’s cramped facility. Adams argued that the state of New York would have nowhere to put prisoners if the massive prison complex was shut down for good. “I believe we’re 2,000 above the number of what we stated the count was going to be,” Adams said. “What do we do with them? I need the folks that are idealistic to deal with the realism of this,” he added. “People are committing violent crimes.”