Prisoners at all 13 prisons in the Alabama department of corrections (Adoc) system started striking from their prison service jobs on 26 September, demanding improvement to conditions, and reforms to harsh sentencing laws and surging parole denials that have long plagued the prison system in Alabama.
Prisoners have refused to work prison service jobs such as food service, laundry, maintenance and janitorial jobs that they receive no pay to do.
“The prison conditions are horrendous,” said Diyawn Caldwell, founder of the advocacy group Both Sides of the Wall and organizer of the strike. “They do not provide the basic necessities, a lot of times they have to beg for toiletries and the basics that they need, and they still won’t get them, said Caldwell, whose husband is currently incarcerated. “They will get retaliated against for the smallest things. The culture of the Adoc is to bully, retaliate and place fear into people to get what they want and stop what they don’t want.”
Adoc have retaliated by canceling weekend visits and reducing the number of daily meals provided to prisoners from three to two.
Prison conditions have only worsened in recent years, with parole denials surging in Alabama over the past three years, pushing prisoners to organize a strike to demand improved conditions, and reforms to parole board hearings and harsh sentencing laws that are contributing to significant overcrowding in prisons. As of July 2022, the Alabama department of corrections currently holds over 20,000 prisoners in facilities designed to hold at maximum 12,115 people.
Parole denials also nearly doubled to 84% in 2021 compared to 46% in 2017. In fiscal year 2022, parole board denials also hit a historic high of 89%. A disproportionate majority of inmates granted parole are white while the majority of Alabama’s prison population is black.