When politicians perpetuate the death penalty against the will of the people

December 6, 2017
By Stephen Cooper and Rory Fleming
Progressive Alabamians faced an election night last year that was by turns terrifying and soul-crushing, but also, when it comes to criminal justice reform, vaguely hopeful. While many were unsurprised by Trump’s victory in the presidential contest, there were, nevertheless, several heartening changes in the selection of the state’s powerful district attorneys. Sadly, however, stand-in Governor Kay Ivey’s recent appointment of Mike Anderton as Jefferson County District Attorney – an appointment that smacks of politics trumping the expressed will of the people – may undo much of the momentum reformists had worked to build.

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Alabama’s Last Execution Was An Atrocity

October 28, 2016

By Stephen Cooper
Alabama Political Reporter

The last time Alabama played God, executing death row inmate Christopher Brooks by lethal injection on January 21, 2016, The Montgomery Advertiser and al.com published a column of mine in which I wrote:

“Initial reports out of Alabama are that the execution went as ‘smoothly’ as killing a reasonably healthy 43-year-old man can go. In any event, it appears there was no visible evidence Brooks suffered bodily distress as the lethal drugs were administered, prompting Alabama Prison Commissioner Jeff Dunn to say that the execution with the controversial sedative drug midazolam ‘went exactly as planned[.]” (See Executions are hardly an exact science, on February 8, 2016, and Courts denied phone to attorneys of man condemned to death, on February 9, 2016).

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Alabama’s Holman Prison is Hell on Earth

October 24, 2016

By Stephen Cooper

Since opening its doors on December 15, 1969, Alabama’s William C. Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, has been a bastion of violence, fear, pain and baleful human suffering.

Built on a shoestring budget of five million dollars during Governor Lurleen Wallace’s administration, it took just five years for Holman prison’s perpetually overcrowded, unsafe and unsanitary conditions to draw the ire of Federal officials. In an article titled, “Court closes Alabama prison gates,” dated August 30, 1975. The St. Petersburg Times (now The Tampa Bay Times), in neighboring Florida, reported that two Federal district court judges, William Brevard Hand and Frank M. Johnson, Jr., ordered Alabama to stop sending prisoners to Holman (and three other prisons) due to overcrowding and the accompanying inhumanity, violence and other perils that brings.
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Overcriminalization and Mass Incarceration: SCOTUS’ Decision in Hobbs Act Will Increase Both

June 30, 2016

By Donnie W. Bethel and Stephen A. Cooper

People of all persuasions, political parties, and philosophies have awakened to the terrible toll the crises of overcriminalization and mass incarceration have wrought on America.

Perhaps, as reported by The New York Times, Judge Raymond J. Dearie of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn has now voiced his view of this disturbing trend better than anyone else. Judge Dearie, a former prosecutor and once the United States Attorney in Brooklyn, plaintively asked: “Why this love affair in this country with lengthy incarceration, to our great embarrassment as a civilized nation?”
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An Annotated Version of Alabama Governor Bentley’s “Bona Fide B.S.”

June 16, 2016

By Stephen A. Cooper

As reported (“Gov. Robert Bentley speaks on Mike Hubbard without mentioning Hubbard”, June 11) by Paul Gattis for Al.com, Alabama Governor Bentley issued a “vaguely-worded” statement this past Saturday morning.

Because, indeed, it was so vague, here’s a line-by-line annotated version to help quickly guide you through what I’d like to charitably call, “Bentley’s Bona Fide B.S.”

The italics under each of Governor Bentley’s sentences get to the crux of both what Bentley’s truly thinking — and would like to say — if he had the guts.
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Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is Madder than a Jackass Chewing on Bumble Bees

June 6, 2016

By Stephen A. Cooper

The last time Alabama Governor Bentley penned a column for al.com, I wrote in The Alabama Political Reporter that his op-ed proved he was delusional, but this time, as it concerns his May 29 open letter to all Alabamians (“Governor Bentley wants to hear from you”), I can’t sugarcoat it: He’s madder than a jackass chewing on bumblebees.

Assuming, I guess, Alabamians plum forgot about his boorish behind the scenes booty-grabbing with “aide” Rebekah Mason Caldwell, Bentley’s babbling May 29 Bible-heavy missive is littered with pious platitudes and, in some instances, gibberish piled high on a slathering of outright lies.
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Bentley’s Op-Ed Proves He’s Delusional

May 11, 2016

By Stephen Cooper

In an op-ed for al.com dated May 9, 2016, Governor Robert Bentley declares he has no “intention of being a caretaker governor.”

Bad news for Bentley: His insistence that he won’t to be relegated to the sidelines during the remainder of his time in office as a “caretaker” governor is not only poignantly pathetic, it’s a whiny, plaintive, petulant protestation nobody believes.

Moreover, while everyone gets what Bentley’s op-ed unpersuasively tried to say, that Bentley would go out of his way to distance himself from the role of a “caretaker” should come as no surprise to Alabamians (or anyone else) following the reality-tv-style high jinks Bentley’s salacious, self-serving tenure will forever be remembered for.
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Eight $100 million ideas for prison reform in Alabama

May 4, 2016

By Stephen Cooper

Instead of wrapping an $800 million ($1.5 billion over 30 years) albatross around the necks of Alabamians to build four new “super-max” style prisons, here are eight $100 million dollar ideas, each of which, I respectfully submit, are more efficient and morally sound ways to tackle Alabama’s prison problems:

1. Write a check for $100 million right now and give it to attorney Bryan Stevenson and his organization, The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). Everyone knows that if this ill-advised prison construction plan continues its dizzying flight forward that, when it goes bad, it will be EJI who will ring the alarm bell — as they’ve done before, through the filing of federal lawsuits. Why wait? Why not go ahead and give EJI $100 million bucks right now together with a mandate to use that dough to implement the many, many prison reforms it has been calling for, for many, many years?
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Clemency in Alabama is a Farce

April 25, 2016

By Stephen Cooper

In about two weeks, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley — himself a desperate cartoonish candidate for clemency from the people of Alabama (who he has so profoundly betrayed) — will be the sole arbiter of clemency for Mr. Vernon Madison, an African-American death row inmate; On May 12, Mr. Madison is scheduled to be executed in the death chamber at Holman Prison, in Atmore, Alabama, for his 1985 conviction for the murder of a Mobile police officer.
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What Prison Reform Means in Alabama

April 12, 2016

By Stephen Cooper

Working as an Assistant Federal Defender in Alabama for three years, I visited many state prisons.  More often than not, the conditions I observed my incarcerated clients in were deplorable.  Sadly, when I raised red flags of concern with officials, shoulders shrugged — folks just did not care.  Instead, at each turn I was met with an attitude — an attitude that I submit needs dramatic adjustment — especially as Alabamians consider whether investing $800 million dollars to build new prisons is a good idea or not.  The attitude goes a little something like this:
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