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September 23

Alabama Families Rally in DC, Demanding End to Prison Slavery

Report on recent mobilization in DC against prison slavery and inhuman conditions in the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC).

On September 20, 2019, a delegation of women and children from Alabama with non-profit Unheard Voices of the Concrete Jungle (OTCJ) traveled to Washington, DC to demand that the Department of Justice file suit against Alabama Department of Corrections following their findings of ongoing conditions of cruel and unusual punishment inside Alabama prisons.  These women and children with incarcerated loved ones, including two formerly incarcerated organizers, brought their love, commitment, and stories to DC while they uplifted the demands of those organizing and risking their lives inside Alabama prisons. Those demands are: No new prisons, US Attorney General William Bar must uphold his oath of office to protect the constitutional rights of all people, and US Attorney for Northern District Jay Town must be removed.

Three children with incarcerated parents were an essential part of the delegation, including the son of Swift Justice, a well-known freedom fighter in Alabama. We uplift their participation and the joy they brought throughout the long trip to DC (and back). We recognize that marginalized children are most impacted by prisons and we reaffirm our commitment to destroying the school to prison pipeline.

The rally was a powerful example of how the passion, commitment, and courage of those living on the outside, who bear witness to the horrendous conditions inside Alabama’s prisons facing their loved ones, are a necessary part of supporting the movement of inside organizers as they demand justice.  The rally was a space to speak truth to power, to embolden one another, and to encourage and support the men and women inside who are risking everything to stand up, expose conditions, and insist on common sense solutions as opposed to new prisons.

There were incredibly moving and powerful speeches from our Alabama delegation, including wives and children of incarcerated people and a woman who had been formerly incarcerated for 14 years at Tutwiler Prison for Women.  Cheryl Lipson Beamon, whose husband James Beamon Bey has been incarcerated at Holman Prison for eleven years, offered a reflection on the power and importance of the rally:

“I feel that we opened up plenty of hearts and ears, to get out there that we want no more new prisons and we need to make the ADOC pay for what they are doing behind these walls.  I feel like everything that we accomplished—that it will go so far, for everyone that was there, to hear where it was we were coming from. We have served that purpose and we will push this issue forward, and continue to get this heard.”

With thanks to the national networks that made this possible and supported the mobilization – including IWOC, Circle for Justice Innovations, Fight Toxic Prisons, and Jailhouse Lawyers Speak – and the local organizers with the DC Abolition Coalition, a space of resistance and rebellion was born, demonstrated by the utterly moving, fearless testimony of Alabama organizers.  They brought forward a new energy and an insistence on justice that will mark a significant moment in Alabama’s movement to end prison slavery.

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Fight Toxic Prisons

Earth liberation and prison abolition.

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