LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. - Ever since the Department of Justice released a report saying Alabama's prisons were violating the 8th amendment, momentum has built in the Alabama Department of Corrections through the federal DOJ's investigation.
Several hunger strikes have caught the attention of those outside the state prisons, and some local and national prisoners' rights and abolitionist groups have come together to help speak for the incarcerated.
On Saturday they held a protest outside of the Limestone Correctional Facility to raise awareness of what's going on inside.
Groups like Free Alabama Movement (FAM), Unheard Voices O.T.C.J., Kinetik and Swift Justice, and the FAM Queen Team chose to use the Limestone Correctional Facility's visitor day to hold a protest.
The protest's organizer, Mona says their plan was to let the visitors know what these prisoners experience, and let the prisoners know that they are fighting for them from the outside, while they fight for their rights inside.
"Leading up to this event five guys inside limestone prison pledged to go on a hunger strike beginning on June 14th, two days before that one of those hunger strikers began that strike," said Mona.
Mona says Kenneth Traywick began his hunger strike two days early, demanding that attention be brought to the issues within Alabama's prison system and that Limestone administrators transfer him out of the facility.
Mona says Traywick was transferred on June 14th when the other four prisoners started their hunger strike.
While Mona calls that a win for prisoners, she says they're protesting to make six change happen.
They are pushing for:
1. Immediate action in the form of a Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit for all 8th Amendment Violations uncovered in the DOJ investigation;
2. No new prisons;
3. Corrupt Limestone administrators must be removed;
4. Any and all retaliation against prisoners following “bucket detail” exposure must stop;
5. A commitment to instituting true rehabilitative and good time programming; and
6. An end to the abusive use of solitary confinement.
Richard Rice is an Attorney with The Rice Firm in Birmingham who says his main focuses are to educate prisoners and give them health care. He says instead of spending money on new prisons, the Alabama Prison Systems could spend money creating programs for prisoner's mental health and preparing them for reentry into society after their time in prison.
"We don't think that spending a billion dollars on new prison facilities is going to make Alabama safer and it's certainly not going to serve the interest of those who are incarcerated," said Rice.
Rice says with the prisoners fighting for their rights, and with peaceful protests like this one, together they can change the way prisoners are treated, and help prepare them for when they're released, all while avoiding the cost of building new prisons.
WHNT News 19 reached out to the Alabama Department of Corrections about the protest, and they say they are continuing to improve the infrastructure of state prisons and following their plans in the ADOC's 2019-2022 strategic plan that the Department recently released.