MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Members from the organization “Alabamians Who Care” caravanned to Gov. Kay Ivey’s mansion Saturday protesting against the building of three new mega-prisons in the state and for more prisoners to be given fair parole hearings.
"The money they are about to waste on mega-prisons needs to be redirected and used for something else," said event organizer Veronica R. Johnson.
A line of about 30 cars, escorted by the Montgomery Police Department, lined up at Hutchinson Missionary Baptist Church on Grove Street and made their way past the governor’s mansion. Some protesters got out of their cars and demanded Gov. Ivey listen.
“Not one more Gov. Ivey. We don’t need new prisons, we need new administration,” chanted one protester. “We don’t need no more prisons, we don’t need to add more prison beds, we need you to let people go.”
Demonstrators spoke about the need to focus more of the state’s attention on fair and impartial parole hearings. They believe this is the answer to overcrowding in Alabama prisons.
“We are going to demand that you release our sisters and brothers that have been incarcerated who have done their time, well over their time, that need to have a fair chance back into society,” said another protester.
Caravan attendee Diane Files said her son has been incarcerated for 18 years and went before the parole board in February, but was denied.
“There is nobody that is going to get a fair chance with these people in office,” said Files. “He had a five-year clear record. He had 32 classes that he had taken and he was going to a halfway house. My son was rehabilitated. He was ready to come out to a halfway house in Birmingham and he was denied.”
On July 23 the U.S. Department of Justice released its final report in an investigation into the unsafe and abusive conditions inside Alabama prisons.
The investigation found that the Alabama Department of Corrections violates the constitutional rights of incarcerated people through the use of excessive force and unsafe conditions due to prison overcrowding.
“Our message is not one more,” said Johnson in a statement. “Not one more prison, not one more death, and not one more day with a parole board and ADOC leadership that only wants to keep our loved ones locked up. All eyes are on Alabama and we do not want prison brutality to be our legacy.”
Some of the protesters at the event Saturday were pushing for more re-entry programs for inmates.
“There are no programs in prison,” said Karren Norris, who was incarcerated at Julia Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka for 14 years. “Even with a completed program it still doesn’t get you ready for society. I came out and I had nothing, and I was forced to go to a halfway house to where it just put me further in debt after being incarcerated for 14 years.”
Gov. Ivey and ADOC have remained consistent in their choice to rebuild the new facilities. Ivey has said that in order to improve prison safety, there needs to be an investment into prison infrastructure, as well as increased correctional staffing, comprehensive mental-health care services, effective rehabilitation programs, etc.