Former Alabama prisoners describe system as horrific, violent and inhumane

“Men are becoming traumatized to the point that they are incompatible to society upon release.”
Updated: Apr. 4, 2019 at 5:48 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -The Department of Justice released a letter on Wednesday detailing severe violence and sexual abuse inside Alabama Prisons. The government said the Alabama Department of Corrections violated the eighth amendment. Former prisoners said the report barely scratches the surface of the horrors inside Alabama prisons.

Marcus Dilworth, who was released from prison two days ago said the problem boils down to prison overcrowding.

“You’re an arm distance away. I can actually touch my neighbor to wake him up if I wanted to,” said Dilworth.

He spent 15 years in five different correctional facilities across the state. Dilworth said the conditions are all the same.

“The space is limited. The conditions are all old, filthy and the personnel, although I believe some of them are trying their best to deal with the situation, they’re not dealing with it. It’s a lot of violence because of the small amount of space,” he continued.

He said mental health issues are often left untreated.

“I’ve heard of several instances where people committed suicide because of fear, because of stress, because of mental issues. When I was at Bullock there were many men who attempted commit suicide,” Dilworth described.

He said drugs are common.

“The first day that I got to a lower level camp, I saw a man who is my neighbor look like he was being electrocuted because I don’t know what he was on. I don’t know what he was taking, but his face and neck was constricting so bad that I didn’t know if he was in a seizure or what. I know that drug and alcohol use there are high. It’s so prevalent,” he continued.

Carmone Owens met Dilworth in Kilby Correctional Facility in Montgomery. Owens also spent time in Ventress Correctional Facility, St. Clair Correctional Facility, Elmore Prison and Childersburg Work Camp.

"I almost died in Ventress because of lack of healthcare," said Owens. "Men are becoming traumatized to the point that they are incompatible to society upon release," he continued.

Owens, who was sentenced to eight 35-year sentences for first degree burglary of a business, said the problem is Alabama prisons are not designed to rehabilitate prisoners.

He now spends his time helping men re-enter society through his organization, Second Chance Lifesavers.

“There are a number of men that could easily be reintegrated safely back into society to ease the overcrowding, to ease the burden on taxpayers, and these men can pay taxes, taken care of the children and pay child support. It also goes to a lot of women who are incarcerated as well,” said Owens.

Owens and Dilworth understand that there is little sympathy about the current state of Alabama’s prison system.

“The apathy is unacceptable because everyone is impacted by incarceration. Everyone has a brother, cousin, uncle, friend, neighbor, or past classmate that is incarcerated,” said Owens.

“Even though you’ve done something wrong that doesn’t justify treating people wrong continuously,” said Dilworth.

Dilworth is now working with Owens in his organization that focuses on prison re-entry, transitional housing and parole advocacy.

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