Filed under: Editorials, Incarceration, Southeast
Long-term anarchist prisoner Michael Kimble reflects on a recent report released on the horrific conditions at Holman prison in Alabama.
For the last couple of years the Department of Justice has been conducting an investigation into the Alabama Department of Corrections. The investigation has come to a close and a report of the Justice Dept.’s findings has been published.
The Justice Dept. report found that prisoners are routinely subjected to horrifying violence and sexual abuse within a “broken system” where prisoners are murdered “on a regular basis.”
Alabama locks up more folks per capita than almost any other state and federal agents found illegal drugs and weapons were rampant, overcrowded cellblocks and gross indifference on the part of prison officials.
The report states that prison officials overlooked obvious murders in three cases, ascribing the deaths to natural causes even when prisoners had been stabbed. The report further states that prison officials turned a blind eye to prisoners who were raped and that prison officials accepted violence and sexual assaults among prisoners as “a normal course of business.”
In one week in 2017, at least two prisoners died – one from a stabbing and the other from a drug overdone – and others were beaten and sexually assaulted in daily clashes across 13 prisons that house 16,000 prisoners.
The report concluded that prison officials fail to provide adequate conditions and that prisoners experience serious harm, including deadly harm, as a result.
Chronic overcrowding and staff shortages have exacerbated conditions, “creating an environment rife with violence, extortion, drugs and weapons,” the report stated.
Federal investigators said the number of guards in Alabama prisons dropped even as the state packed more prisoners into overcrowded prisons.
The number of guards dropped from just under 1,800 in 2013 to about 1,300 in 2017. That left prisoners to fend for themselves. “Prisoners have been tied up for days by other prisoners while unnoticed by staff.”
In one case, investigators said guards watched an inmate bleed on the other side of a locked fence as they struggled to find a key. In another, investigators stated an unnamed prisoner told them that a guard told him that he would need to arm himself with a knife to survive.
From 2015 to 2018, at least 27 men were murdered in Alabama prisons, a rate the government said was eight times the national average. Prison Captains and Lieutenants interviewed by federal investigators indicated that staffers were often resigned to the idea that prisoners “will be subjugated to sexual abuse as a way to pay debts accrued to other prisoners.”
Investigators also found that prison officials allowed drugs to flourish, the report says, and staff smuggles contraband inside. One employee reportedly earned $75,000 smuggling drugs and other contraband, and his accomplice – a prisoner – made $100,000. Even prisoners interviewed styled the drug problem as an “epidemic.”
At Holman, about 95% of the prison population uses drugs, according to one commander’s estimate. A synthetic marijuana known as K-2 resulted in at least three dozen deaths at several Alabama prisons from 2016 to 2018.
The contents of this report is something that prisoners and abolitionists have been reporting for years.
From reading the investigators’ report one can only draw from it that everything we, prisoners and anarchists, have been saying about prisons being corrupt, oppressive, violent, etc. is true.
But we can never forget that the federal investigators are agents of the state and even though they seemingly condemn the Alabama prison system, they themselves are upholders of the state and a vast prison system.
Before I end this, it should be noted that this drug epidemic didn’t really start here at Holman until stiff resistance against prison officials sprung up here in 2016.
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