Alabama prisoners and families rally in Washington DC to demand justice and equal protection Sept. 20

‘Alabama to DC: End Prison Slavery’ rally and press conference with speeches from inside, banners, personal stories, music on Friday, Sept. 20, 4-6 p.m., in Pershing Park, at 14th St NW & Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington DC

by Mona Song, Mei Azaad and Fariha Huriya

Washington, D.C. – On Sept. 20, Unheard Voices OTCJ, along with the DC Abolition Coalition and allies will gather from 4 to 6 p.m. with a delegation of women and children from Alabama who have been personally impacted by the Alabama DOC to confront the Department of Justice for their inaction after finding ongoing, egregious Eighth Amendment violations in Alabama prisons earlier this year.

As one voice from the inside declares: “The prisons in Alabama are functioning in the same exact manner. Men are being murdered, assaulted, raped, overdosing and being denied mental and medical care constantly. These conditions have become frequent and ADOC is failing to report the many incidents that take place in order to gain favor in the eyes of the federal agencies involved in investigating ADOC and to gain favor with you, the public.”

Alabama prison officials, knowing full well that overcrowded, overheated, understaffed prisons invite violence, blame and attack the victims by raiding and seizing weapons that even peace-loving prisoners create when they have no other protection. They ignore the cause and attack the consequences. – Photo: ADOC

We demand that the DOJ follow through on their commitment to file suit against the Alabama prison system! We demand that Attorney General William Barr uphold his oath of office. We demand #NoNewPrisons!

We know that Alabama politicians and US Attorney for the Northern District Jay Town are not going to protect the rights of incarcerated individuals and hold their own accountable and prosecute the civil rights violations of prisoners and criminal activities of the ADOC. We know that their priority is only building three new private prisons which will exacerbate the human rights abuses and expand prison slavery in Alabama.

Those gathered at this family-friendly event will amplify the cry heard from behind the walls: “We are MEN!” These words are an echo of those spoken on the first day of the 1971 Attica Rebellion – a reminder of our past, a call to action, and an insistence on the humanity of incarcerated individuals whose constitutional rights require equal protection and enforcement by the Department of Justice.

‘I will not be silent’: Alabama prisoner alleges retaliation after speaking to media

Following are excerpts from the story with this headline published in the Montgomery Advertiser on Sept. 13, 2019, by Melissa Brown:

An Alabama man says he was retaliated against by state prison officials after speaking to the Montgomery Advertiser regarding conditions inside Fountain Correctional Facility.

Kenneth Traywick says he was taken from his Fountain bunk in a pre-dawn raid on Monday, Sept. 9, transferred to another prison, stripped and placed into a suicide crisis cell for 48 hours. The transfer, which occurred under what Traywick alleges were false pretenses, came days after he provided information to the Advertiser about conditions at Fountain, including a threat by the warden to withhold food from prisoners because of their haircuts.

Traywick told the Advertiser in a letter dated two days after the article was published that multiple prison employees had told him he would not remain in Fountain for long.

“Everybody was being condescending to me for allowing my name to be published,” Traywick said in a Thursday phone interview. “But I told them I have a First Amendment right to speak out and have my name published.” …

In the letter written on Saturday, Sept. 7, Traywick told the Advertiser “numerous” ADOC employees at Fountain told him his name was on a “hot list” for speaking to the media and previous advocacy efforts.

In this June 18, 2015, photo, prisoners stand in a crowded lunch line during a prison tour at Elmore Correctional Facility in Elmore, Ala. In a scathing report issued April 3, 2019, the Justice Department determined that Alabama’s prisons are violating the Constitution by failing to protect inmates from violence and sexual abuse and by housing them in unsafe and overcrowded facilities. The problems were described as “severe” and “systemic.” – Photo: Brynn Anderson, AP

“I expect the administration of Fountain and the ADOC’s commissioner’s office to retaliate against me for exercising my constitutional right of free speech and access to the media,” Traywick wrote. “ADOC has numerous ways that they retaliate against those who may disrupt their corruption or speak against them in any way.

“These tactics range from physical assaults, bogus disciplinary actions, transfers to other facilities, placing in segregation and held for long durations (labeled as an agitator or political prisoner). The life of one who will not remain silent becomes even more challenging on both a mental level and physical level. One pays a steep price to exercise what is alleged a right.” …

In the early hours of Monday, Sept. 9, a 300-person task force raided Fountain Correctional Facility. ADOC later released a media statement about the raid, citing the recovery of hundreds of contraband items in a 10-hour operation.

Traywick said he was awakened close to dawn as prisoners began yelling that K9 and riot units were entering the institution. A K9 unit officer and an Escambia County Sheriff’s Department deputy came to the foot of his bed and asked his name. When he identified himself, Traywick said, they handcuffed him and led him to “lock-up,” or a solitary confinement cell.

[Then prison officials retaliated further by calling him suicidal, which he adamantly denies, transferring him to the notorious Holman Prison and placing him naked in a “strip cell.”]

Traywick and a second man, Cody, spoke to the Advertiser at length about Fountain conditions through August and September.

On Sept.1, a man incarcerated at Fountain collapsed, languished and eventually died inside a cell block as fellow prisoners shouted, banged on walls and splashed water into the hallway in an attempt to get a guard’s attention. Cody, whose last name the Advertiser withheld, said prisoners did everything they could to get a guard’s attention while Christopher Hurst died.

Alabama prison officials declined to answer the majority of the Advertiser’s questions last week, including queries about the lack of officers on guard post.

Traywick told the Advertiser prior to Hurst’s death that prison administration is focused more on micromanaging dorm dust levels than addressing the widespread, documented violence and drug use in Alabama prisons. …

Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Melissa Brown at 334-240-0132 or mabrown@gannett.com.

Resources

For more information:

  • https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/03/us/alabama-prisons-doj-investigation.html
  • https://unheardvoicesotcj.wordpress.com/
  • https://www.facebook.com/events/2347459988826715/

Mona Song, Mei Azaad and Fariha Huriya can be reached at mona@unheardvoicesotcj.com or fighttoxicprisons@gmail.com. Bay View staff contributed to this story.