By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Saturday, Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Corbett acknowledged to the Associated Press that since New Year’s Day, at least some prisoners have refused to work in kitchen and laundry areas and perform other jobs. Corbett said that some of the prisoners want to be paid for the work that they do at the prison. Corbett said that prisoners have also voiced concerns about the court system. Corbett told the AP that the protests at the St. Clair and Holman Correctional facilities have been peaceful and that prisoner movement has been restricted at the St. Clair prison.
On Monday, a spokesman for the prisoner movement identifying himself only as “John” was interviewed by Leland Whaley on-air at 101.1 FM. “John” claimed that the protest has continued, claimed that all the prisoners at the two prisons were participating, and that the protest now included four Alabama prisons. “John” would not say exactly what he had been convicted for, but did say that he had served 15 years out of a 30 year sentence for taking other people’s property and that he had previous convictions for receiving stolen property. The prisoner claimed that the protests were over complaints about the food, the overcrowding at the prisons, the conditions at the prisons, dissatisfaction over the pay issue, lack of educational opportunities in the prison, and expressed his own dissatisfaction with the parole board.
According to John, the prisoners are fed some sort of unpalatable meat patties and stew and claimed that even bologna sandwiches would be preferable over the dinner fare currently being served by the Alabama prison system. John said that repairs at the prisons are long delayed and expressed his dissatisfaction with the general cleanliness of the prison. John said that a lot of what he called “crazy people” were in the prison population and complained about the mental health care being offered in the system and complained about the firing of the prison psychologist who has not been replaced.
John said that there was a leader to this movement, but that that person’s identity would be revealed at a future time. John did acknowledge that a stabbing had occurred, but said that the movement was nonviolent. Whaley also interviewed a recent prisoner at the St. Clair correctional facility on air who also confirmed that there was a prisoner sit down strike underway.
The Alabama Political Reporter has spoken with sources who confirm that there is a disruption of normal prison activities underway. We hope to have more information on this story in coming days.
In 2012, State Senator Cam Ward (R) from Alabaster told The Alabama Political Reporter that, “The whole system is a ticking time bomb and there is no one to point a finger at, this has been building for two decades and now it is coming to a head.”
Senator Ward told The Alabama Political Reporter, “Are there problems with the prison system, yes, it is overcrowded, underfunded and understaffed.”
Ward who serves as the Co-chair of the Legislative Joint Committee has been warning people for years as to the coming catastrophe facing the state but little has been done to correct the failed system.
Alabama spends less money per inmate than any other state in the country. Tough talking Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio spends twice as much on his prisoners than Alabama does.
Sen. Ward did say though that prisons in Alabama are meant to be punitive, “People go to prison because they have committed a crime. They must pay a price.” But did say that, “There is a distinction between the prisons we have and say the ones in Central America. We are not a third world country. We want to make things safe for society and there are smart ways to do that.”
Under Federal guidelines, States have certain requirements and standards that must be kept. If these minimums are not met then the Feds takeover. This has happened in California and has led to more cost and more violence.
Ward says that the state is already experiencing the human cost of underfunding and overcrowding within prison walls. Ward said in 2012, “I am concerned about the corrections officers, said Ward, “It was reported to the joint committee that prison staffing is at about 55 percent of what it should be.”
Ward says, “We have to be concerned about correctional officer with violence toward inmates, or inmate-on-inmate violence or violence toward corrections officer. These all have to be taken into consideration.”
The state has historically lagged behind the rest of the country in how much we fund our prison system. The practice of dividing the budget into the general fund and the education fund with two separate earmarked budgets and the growing costs of the expensive Medicaid budget, which takes ever increasing amounts of money from the general fund has left the prisons struggling to deal with their daily costs while trying to avoid a federal takeover of the prison system.