Parole Hearings, Incentive Good Time, Prison Overcrowding & Criminal Justice Reform – An Open Letter to Gov. Kay Ivey

Dear Governor Ivey

I have been incarcerated for 11 years as of November 2020. In my time with Alabama’s Department of Corrections i have seen numerous people with what are considered “violent crimes” be denied parole or not be considered until they have done 85% of their time or 15 years, whichever is less. Most women who are by law considered violent, are not. If you look at the statistics for women who are charged with violent crimes and have been released, the recidivism rate is extremely low.

The Parole Board has some serious issues that need to be addressed. A parole hearing should not be about re-trying our case. The judge has already done that. It should be about our institutional record; i.e. what steps we have taken to keep from re-offending, the classes we have taken to help in our recovery and classes that ADOC recommended, if we have any behaviour disciplinaries and our work performance while incarcerated. These things will tell if we are ready to re-enter society as a law abiding citizen. Our charge/conviction will never change, but we can change if we have a desire to and our institutional record will reflect this.

Prison overcrowding could be alleviated by re-instituting Incentive Good Time (IGT) to people with sentences less than life without parole or the death penalty and placing a cap on life sentences. The IGT was removed by “Michie’s Alabama Code Title 14, Chapter 9, Article 3, Deductions from sentences of Correctional Incentive Time”. Capping life sentences and making good time available across the board would provide a huge incentive for not only good behaviour, but it would reduce the amount of drugs being done in the prison system. IGT can be pulled if an inmate gets into trouble by receiving a disciplinary (such as bad behaviour or dirty urinalysis) so this would be a good incentive to remain trouble and drug free. As it stands now, people with long sentences have no incentive to improve their behaviour except their own moral conviction. This does not work for some people who have served long periods of time and numerous denials of parole, they have lost all hope and need a more tangible reason, such as getting IGT or some hope of making parole in the foreseeable future.

We need a prison system that allows people to work toward achievable goals that are based on our behaviour while incarcerated and not on our crime. We can not change what we did yesterday, but we can change who we are today. Locking people up and throwing away the key will only change people for the worse. That is why our prisons are in the shape they are in today. We must all learn from our past mistakes and that includes the way Alabama views its prison population. Not only do the laws need to be revised, sentencing guidelines re-worked and due process of law examined (which includes plea agreements that are signed by people that do not know their rights or the law, but are convinced by prosecutors that its in their best interest to sign them).

Thank yolu for taking the time to read this and i hope you will take into consideration the above suggestions given by someone who has lived this life for 11 years and witnessed the hopelessness firsthand.

Respectfully.

A female inmate at Birmingham Community Based Facility.

2020 Petition for the Advancement of Class A & B Women Offenders

In 2016 Deputy Commissioner of Women’s Services, Wendy Williams went to all three of Alabama’s Department of Corrections facilities and held conferences in front of women that she’d handpicked. Everyone of us inmates were convicted of either Class A or Class B felonies that they classify as “violent”.

She told us that according to a new classification manual called the Women’s Risk Needs Assessment (WRNA) that was being implemented later that year, we were going to be able to work again for the first time since Governor Siegelman‘s order to remove all “violent” offenders from the work release programs back in the late 1990’s. It is now 2020 and four years since Commissioner Williams announcement to us, yet none of us have been allowed to work a single day.

In truth the Class A & B offenders have long held some of ADOC’s most trusted and responsible jobs, being van drivers, transporting workers to and from their work places, Governor’s Mansion workers, Department of Motor Vehicles workers, Department of Transportation workers, road crews that clear litter and garbage from our highways, courthouse workers, State Trooper office workers, ADOC fleet maintenance workers etc.

When considering allowing first time Class A & B offenders the ability to work, we feel that the positive aspects far outweigh any negative or political aspects which include but are not limited to:

  • Increasing revenue back into the work release coffers
  • Paying off outstanding fines and restitution
  • Contributing to the offenders upkeep instead of being a costly liability to the state
  • Helping each woman prepare and transition back into society
  • Proving to the public and to the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles that the women are worthy and capable of being productive, law abiding citizens of society.

In 2018 a special docket loaded Class A & B offenders who were specially picked by the Central Review Board, due to the qualifications they had met for their accomplishments throughout their incarceration, and were due to be considered for early paroles in late September, these women already having served the bulk of their sentences.

Due to the grievous actions of a “non violent” parolee, the entire docket was pulled and a moratorium from Governor Ivey stopped all early paroles on Class A & B offenders who had not served 1/3 of their sentences, even though some of these early parole dates, had been issued years in advance by the previous parole board. Us women that were eligible for parole having excellent institutional records and home plans have had that taken away from us due to actions that were far beyond our control.

Jimmy Lee Spencer was considered a non violent offender in prison even though he had been in and out of prison for most of his life, he had numerous violent disciplinary actions brought against him and he was considered confrontational and argumentative at the best of times, these traits should have been reviewed and considered as part of his parole consideration hearing, obviously they wasn’t for whatever reason.

Given the fact that most first time Class A & B offenders receive such lengthy sentences, parole is usually our only hope for regaining our liberty. Why should we be held accountable for something that we have no control over? We are being used by politicians and other public officials as the scapegoat for jimmy Lee Spencer.

We are trying to right our wrongs, we are not our past mistakes, but we are trying to create a future that we can all be proud of. All we are asking for is the opportunity.

Sincerely, First time Class A & B women offenders of ADOC

Alabama Department of Corrections ridiculous and arbitrary mail practices that discriminates against women with the lowest custody level at Birmingham Community Based Work Release Facility

There is nothing in the Alabama Department of Corrections administrative regulations that we could find that details what they are doing to the women’s mail at this facility. As mail arrives, it is photocopied, be it letters, birthday cards or photographs, they then destroy the originals and give the women the black and white photocopy.

They claim this arbitrary practice is in order to stem the supply of drugs into the facility, however, despite not having visitation for over 3 months now due to the pandemic, the drugs are still readily available which proves what we all suspected anyway, in that the drugs are not brought in by an inmates family and friends at visitation, but rather its being smuggled in by ADOC’s own staff or via legal mail.

The key dealers in this facility know how to easily circumvent ADOC’s ineffective drug screening and detection protocols, they would rather punish every woman by destroying their mail, even mail that is sent from 3rd party online services, than deal with the culprits effectively.

Morale and self esteem is at an all time low, visitation has been put on hold with no time frame of when it will resume. This work release facility should be preparing women to go back into the free world after years of suffering within these hell hole facilities where they have been deliberately denied even the most basic of human rights, but ADOC is doing the opposite, they are locking down, they are taking away, they are disregarding and punishing those that have already been punished with the loss of their liberty in some cases for decades already, now they can’t even receive a picture drawn by a child to its mother.

We are sick and tired of how they treat our loved ones.

 

Most Women In Prison Are Moms — Advocates Want You To Remember Them On Mother’s Day, Too

By MORGAN BRINLEE
A Momma and her baby
A Momma and her baby

For most moms, Mother’s Day is a time to be celebrated. But for nearly 80 percent of the women currently incarcerated in the United States, Mother’s Day won’t mean flowers, pedicures, breakfast in bed, or even a day spent with their children. Instead it will mean another day behind bars, separated from family, and struggling with feelings of isolation and guilt. This Mother’s Day, however, advocates are working to raise awareness about the plights of incarcerated moms across the country.

In the last couple of decades, women have become the fastest growing group of people to be thrown behind bars, according to a 2016 report from the Vera Institute of Justice. Nearly 80 percent of incarcerated women in America are mothers with dependent children — a staggering statistic by any measure. And, more often than not, those mothers are single parents, the report found. That means that their children may be especially affected by the devastating consequences that can come along with having a mother incarcerated.

“When moms are jailed, the consequences for children can be devastating, from being shunted into the foster care system, to remaining home alone to fend for themselves,” Human Rights Watch has reported.

Formerly incarcerated women agree. “When you incarcerate women, you incarcerate the whole family,”

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Prison secrets: AL.com investigation finds prison bosses have little to fear from breaking the rules

Warden Carter Davenport (right) speaks to media members during a tour as State Senator Cam Ward (center) and Kim Thomas, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections listen at the St. Clair Correctional Facility Fri., March 16, 2012 in Springville, Ala. (The Birmingham News/Bernard Troncale). (BERNARD TRONCALE)
Warden Carter Davenport (right) speaks to media members during a tour as State Senator Cam Ward (center) and Kim Thomas, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections listen at the St. Clair Correctional Facility Fri., March 16, 2012 in Springville, Ala. (The Birmingham News/Bernard Troncale). (BERNARD TRONCALE)
By Casey Toner – on June 13, 2014 at 5:33 AM, updated March 12, 2016 at 1:48 PM

SPRINGVILLE, Alabama — On a routine cell transfer in 2012, a handcuffed inmate at St. Clair Correctional Facility had a few choice words that pricked the ear of Warden Carter Davenport.

Davenport, then a 24-year corrections veteran, wasn’t going to let it slide. Not in the state’s second-most-violent prison. Not from an inmate placed in segregation — a dorm reserved for the prison’s worst troublemakers.

Incensed, Davenport clenched his fist and cracked him in the head. When the inmate quieted down, Davenport removed his shackles and led him back to his cell.

In most places, it is a crime to punch a handcuffed man. But in Alabama’s correctional system, it is a merely a policy violation, which was documented in Davenport’s personnel file. There was no investigation of the case, no interview with the inmate, and no record made of his injuries. Davenport received a two-day suspension, which he served the following month.

An AL.com analysis of hundreds of personnel documents shows that the state’s wardens can flout the rules, take a slap on the wrist, return to work or transfer to other prisons. In fact, some wardens were promoted to their positions even after serving suspensions as lower-ranking officers for beating inmates or covering up beatings.

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Stop The Abuse. Please, We Need Outside Help

Here at Montgomery Women’s Facility we have been suffering sexual abuse, yet when we speak out we get ridiculed by our peers. Officers treat us like its our fault, we walk on eggshells fearing retaliation and the guilty Officers of abuse, are only transferred. Our story becomes well spread between the inmates and other Officers at the other female facilities – Tutwiler and Birmingham Work Centre.

Statement alleging systemic abuse at Montgomery Women's Facility
Statement alleging systemic abuse at Montgomery Women’s Facility

There is no peace for us anywhere. One woman spoke out here about her suffering of sexual abuse form an Officer as well as mental and emotional abuse from his co-workers and she became ostracised from inmates, from all 3 female facilities. The Officer she reported, told her if she ever told, he would make sure that she was protested at each parole hearing.

In Alabama, if one has protesters then the individual is denied parole and put off for 5 years. Here at Montgomery Women’s Facility we also suffer verbal abuse from Officers as well as employees who work here.The employee who runs our canteen, abuses us constantly. She has cursed some of us, calling us “bitches and hoes”. When we report her, she retaliates by “losing our store slip” and prevents us from getting our food and hygienes.

The other day, a girl left the canteen in tears after this employee called her a heifer and told the girl she could talk to her anyway she fashioned. Then a few minutes later this employee was yelling out another girl, telling her to get her greasy hair head away from her. These girls went to the Officer who is a Lieutenant, who is in charge of grievances against Officers/Employess and this Lieutenant told them that she didn’t have time for this trivial crap.

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This place is inhumane and we’ve lost all our rights, but no one should ever lose the right to be human

I’ve heard that Tutwiler is listed as one of the 10 most dangerous prisons in the country and i find it hard to believe that Montgomery Womens Facility is not on that list. Do people not realise that most of those same officers that helped get Tutwiler on that 10 most dangerous prisons list, have now been transferred here to Montgomery Women’s Facility?

This place is inhumane and we've lost all our rights, but no one should ever lose the right to be human
This place is inhumane and we’ve lost all our rights, but no one should ever lose the right to be human

I understand that the equal Justice Department has implemented numerous things to try to make it just a tad bit safer & a little more human (e.g.) Prison Rape Elimination Act, a grievance system for us to be able to report problems we may be having with an officer etc. My question is what good are those things when the person you report to is “friends” with all the officers and assumes the officer is always right, and the inmate is always wrong?

When we report to Lt. Bentford, she just sweeps it under the rug and nothing even goes into the officers file. When officers get promoted to Sergeant after getting into numerous physical altercations with numerous inmates, then something is wrong, especially when we are expected to follow the rules, but no-one  in authority here is made to follow any rules. They do what they want, when they want and we have to accept that because we are just inmates, right?

Wrong! In case society has forgotten, then let me remind you that all of us here are somebody’s daughter, mother, sister, wife and friend. Yes, we have made mistakes that landed us in hell, but we are not any less human because we messed up. I just need to know where the rehabilitation comes from? We have hardly any classes here, no social workers to help with rebuilding relationships with our kids & families, no job training skills – Nothing- And we are expected to get out of here and magically know how to operate in a world that has become so technologically advanced that you can now turn the heat on in your house by using an app on your iPhone.

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An inmates prayer for help at Montgomery Women’s Facility

To All:

I write in hope that all who read this, take it to heart. When a person loses their liberty and becomes incarcerated, the punishment is the loss of said liberty. According to Websters New World Dictionary, the definition of liberty is “Freedom from slavery, captivity etc.”. A particular right, freedom etc. The definition for inmate is “A person confined with others in a prison or mental institution”. The definition of prison is “A place of confinement for convicted criminals or persons who are awaiting trial”.

A prayer for help at Montgomery Women's Facility
A prayer for help at Montgomery Women’s Facility

Nowhere in these definitions or even the law does it say that during an inmates loss of liberty whilst being confined to prison, is it acceptable to abuse, mistreat, belittle or otherwise punish an inmate. Here at Montgomery Women’s Facility all of the above and worse take place. The reason people, yes i said people, here don’t speak out is because they are in fear of retaliation.

There are posters all over this facility about PREA and extortion. It is for show only. They went through PREA “Training”. They say they know what is supposed to happen, how we are supposed to be treated, but do as they please anyway. It is all for show for the Department Of Justice, lawyers and Commissioners, They do not follow it.

I personally know things about this place, things i have been through and have witnessed, but to come forward would be huge retaliation. All you have to do is look at the outcome of one inmate who came forward, to see how said retaliation degraded her. It mentally, physically and spiritually broke her down and left her feeling even more abused.

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What it “feels like” to be incarcerated in Montgomery Womens Facility

Alabama Department Of Corrections, Ha!
It should read, Alabama Department Of Corruption. The sad part of it all, is that society doesn’t even realize they’re being scammed by the state. They pay tax dollars to keep housing inmates who reform themselves. Funding for this class, funding for that class. All that does is fill someone’s wallet up and add extra digits to their bank accounts. All inmates get is an A/A big book to read out of. That book has got to be under $30.00. At the end of the day it’s a choice everyone makes, to use alcohol and drugs or not to. All the funding in the world for classes will not stop someone from returning to prison.

Where is the logic in that? Much less paying for my three meals a day, all medicines, doctor visits, dental care, eye care and wear, rent, water, electricity, heating, cooling, toilet paper, tampons, pads, shirts, pants, coat, panties, bras, socks, shoes, shorts, t-shirts, pyjamas, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, razors, shaving cream, hair grease, comb, brush, my clothes washed daily, and get those who pay for all this, protest me for parole so that I can stay longer in prison with all these accommodations.

Question – who’s punished and who isn’t? Being a model inmate hasn’t gotten me anywhere.

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