Attorneys and investigators for the U.S Department of Justice visited St. Clair Correctional Facility last week to conduct interviews with incarcerated individuals on conditions and the treatment of those incarcerated within the facility, according to sources familiar with the visit.
A spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed on Tuesday that Justice Department attorneys and two consultants working with the department visited the St. Clair County facility “as part of the normal discovery process” for the federal government’s ongoing lawsuit against the ADOC and the state of Alabama.
An amended version of the ongoing lawsuit filed by the Justice Department against the state alleges that the systemic overcrowding and understaffing in every major correctional facility in the state has directly led to increased cases of physical and sexual violence among incarcerated individuals living in “unconstitutional conditions” rampant with narcotics and other dangerous contraband.
The delegation visited on Wednesday and Thursday, according to a source familiar with the visit.
Ernest Walker, an incarcerated man at St. Clair Correctional Facility, was interviewed on Thursday by an attorney for the Justice Department during their visit and spoke about the food deprivation he had experienced as a result of the general strike and protest by incarcerated workers across the state’s 14 major facilities. Walker also spoke on the general conditions he’s experienced since his transfer from Donaldson Correctional Facility, where he spent most of his over 14 years in prison.
Incarcerated individuals alleged during the general strike and protest that the ADOC ordered so-called “bird feeding,” or food deprivation, against the state’s incarcerated population in an effort to starve out the organizing efforts.
During the strike, Individuals within state prisons with medical conditions requiring consistent food intake filed an emergency Motion to Intervene in the Justice Department’s ongoing lawsuit with the state, urging for immediate intervention from the federal government in the state’s prison system. Intervention does not seem likely in the near future, and the ADOC declared the strike over on Oct. 17 and a resumption of normal operations.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the visit or its ongoing investigation.
Two days after the Justice Department visit, 42-year-old Jason Wade Means, an incarcerated man at the St. Clair Correctional Facility, was found unresponsive in his dormitory and later pronounced dead that same day.