Report on ongoing hunger strike happening in the infamous Holman prison in Alabama.
Prison hunger strike continues into a fifth day, in protest of the Alabama Department of Corrections’ unlawful use of solitary confinement. Robert Earl Council (also known as Kinetik Justice), was recently placed in a solitary housing unit (SHU) at Holman Correctional Facility without any altercation, investigation, or disciplinary infraction from the ADOC. As a last resort to protest the ADOC’s disregard for their own regulations, Council notified Warden Cynthia Stewart, at 3 a.m. on March 7th, 2019 that he is now on an official hunger strike (refusing all food and liquids). He will continue this hunger strike until he is released back into general population and the ADOC is held accountable. As Council explained, “ADOC’s actions amount to a violation of our due process rights and the 8th Amendment’s ‘Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause.”
Council was transferred to the SHU at Holman Correctional Facility, following amajor shakedown at St. Clair Correctional Facility on February 28th, 2019. Council was inside his general population cell at St. Clair Correctional Facility around 2 a.m. on the 28th, when a platoon of ADOC’s emergency reponse team members and local law enforcement SWAT team members entered his cell. Council was handcuffed and immediately escorted to an awaiting bus to be transported to Holman.
Council arrived at Holman later that day to an all-too-familiar scene. He was placed in Holman’s solitary housing unit (SHU) once again, after previously spending 54 months in solitary from 2014 to 2018 for leading a peaceful work strike at the same facility. Council was finally released from solitary in late 2018 after attorney at law, David Gespass filed a Habeas Corpus on behalf of Council in the court, challenging the ADOC’s unconstitutional practice of holding of him in solitary confinement for 54 months without just cause. The ADOC released Council right before a set court hearing on the Habeas Corpus in August of last year, making the case moot. (see Robert E Council vs. Warden Bolling Cv. – 2017-101 filed in the Bessemer division of Jefferson County, State of Alabama.)
In response to the hunger strike, all three wardens at Holman CF (Stewart, Raybon, and Mitchell) have stated that they are simply following orders from ADOC’s Commissioner, Jefferson Dunn. Dunn has not given any public statement on the matter. Council’s current confinement is reflective of the ADOC’s retaliatory actions in anticipation of state-wide protests to stop new prison construction, instead of using that money to expand education and rehabilitation programs. This hunger strike is part of an escalating movement both in and outside of prisons, including the 2018 National Prison Strike, drawing attention to the rampant corruption and abuses.
On March 7th, activists, students, and community members from all over the country initiated a national call-in campaign to demand an explanation from the ADOC. Supporters are calling to demand Council’s release from solitary confinement, and an end to retaliation against Council and other prisoners. Support for the hunger strike is steadily growing.
If the demand to return Robert Earl Council back to general population is not met by the Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jefferson Dunn by March 15, 2019, a protest will convene at Holman Correctional Facility.