Students Against Prisons, The Ordinary Peoples Society and other groups held a rally at the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery to oppose Gov. Ivey’s plans to spend $3 billion to build three new private prisons in Alabama on February 20. One hundred representatives of the groups met to hear leaders of the organizations, including some previously incarcerated people, speak out against the governor’s prison plans. All participants were masked and stood in a socially distanced manner.
A spokesperson for the student organization that has challenged Gov. Ivey’s plans said: “This is a ‘back door deal’ with Core Civic that will build three private prisons, at a cost of $3 billion without addressing the underlying problems of the inhumane Alabama prison system.”
She suggested reading the 2019 Report of the U.S. Justice Department on Alabama Prisons because the governor’s private prison plan does not address the issues in that report. She said it was unclear if the plan would close existing prisons or just provide more overcrowded conditions and provide incentives to incarcerate more people to benefit and support the private prison investors. She also warned that privatizing the prisons would lead to the employees losing their state pensions and other rights.
Quinton Caldwell, a former inmate of the Alabama Prison system said: “We do not need to build more prisons, we need to build job centers, rehabilitation programs for substance abuse and mental health problems. The Alabama prison system is the equivalent of ‘modern day slavery.’ Prisoners work 10 hours a day with no pay. There is not rehabilitation, and health care is a myth. We need to use our votes to elect people who will change and reform the system.”
Patrice Britt, the niece of inmate Robert Earl Council, who was beaten by authorities in Donaldson Prison, said her uncle was unfairly treated because he spoke up against prison abuses and supported other prisoner’s complaints. Council is in a prison health facility to recover from his injuries.
Rev. Kenneth Glasgow of Dothan, who heads The Ordinary Peoples Society, an organization working for prisoner’s rights, inside and outside, praised the work of the students in raising the issues of the problems with the governor’s private prison plan.
Glasgow also announced that the Houston County Grand Jury had dropped the murder charges against him.
“I had to think about this,” he said. “Should I stop fighting so hard against the prison system, and I decided that I wasn’t fighting hard enough. I resolved to fight even more and help more incarcerated people get their rights and get released from prison.”
John Zippert from the Save Ourselves Movement for Justice and Democracy greeted the group and said SOS had been coming to the Capitol Steps every other week during the past year, to call for Medicaid Expansion, equitable treatment of Black, Brown and poor people in the coronavirus pandemic and the release of all non-violent prisoners and others at risk for the coronavirus in the prison system.
The rally participants marched around the Capital area and heard from other speakers before ending their protest.
(This article originally appeared in The Greene County Democrat.)