Follow the coverage of Alabama Appleseed’s work, news mentions and opinion editorials written by staff members. Interested in speaking with Alabama Appleseed? Please email Executive Director Carla Crowder for an interview.
‘Chaos, confusion and corruption’: Violence persists in Alabama’s prisons despite federal investigation
Carla Crowder, executive director of Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, a nonprofit group that advocates for prison reform, said years of litigation have proven the state “is not willing and able to house all the people it wants to lock up in safe, constitutional conditions.”Read more.
Brian Lyman | 3/10/2020
If a bill to strengthen public records dies in the current session, clerks in small towns — or an image of them presented by opponents — may be responsible.
Critics of legislation from Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, at a hearing on Tuesday, who repeatedly invoked visions of public employees in tiny towns deluged in requests from individuals inside and outside the state. …
Media organizations and nonprofits spoke in support of the bill, often describing their difficulties in obtaining public records. Leah Nelson of Alabama Appleseed, a nonprofit advocacy group, said she made over 138 requests to public agencies while researching civil forfeiture law. Nelson said she got 38 responses, including an assertion the information she needed would cost $100,000 to obtain, and another claiming releasing the information would be a threat to public safety.
Lauren Gill | 2/28/2020
Amber had 24 hours after her release from an Alabama prison to come up with $290 for the first monthly payment on her electronic monitoring device. After being sentenced to 15 years in prison for violating her probation for second-degree robbery, she had been given an opportunity to serve the majority of her sentence on the outside under the supervision of a community corrections program. But without the payment, she would be sent back to prison.
She managed to pool together the money in time, but the fees didn’t stop there. In addition to the monitoring fee on the first Tuesday of each month, her drug test costs around $20 each week. Researchers who have studied her case say she owes the state roughly $5,500 in fees, fines, and restitution. And because she is considered a violent offender, her community corrections officer told her there are no resources to help with the payments.
“With these fees and stuff it’s very stressful, coming out of prison and trying to redeem yourself,” Amber told researchers with the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. She asked that her last name not be used because she feared it would endanger her success in diversion. “It’s not like when you come out of prison you don’t have any responsibilities.”
Lauren Gill | 3/5/2020
Voters in two Alabama counties passed local constitutional amendments on Tuesday that allow sheriffs to use money allocated for feeding people incarcerated at their jails for purposes other than food. The change comes nearly a year after Alabama lawmakers tightened restrictions on the use of these funds to ensure that jail food fund money was not misappropriated.
Under the amendment, Etowah County Sheriff Jonathon Horton and Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims will be able to use all money leftover from a designated food fund on law enforcement purposes such as new equipment or staff positions. Legislation passed in May 2019 limited that figure to 25 percent, and required that the rest of the money be transferred to the next year.
Critics of the plan say they are concerned that the new rules will lead to sheriffs misusing the funds and cutting back on prisoner meals to pay for other needs. “It does certainly seem to run counter to the intent of the legislation, which is money to feed people should be spent on feeding people with only a small fraction going elsewhere,” said Carla Crowder, executive director of advocacy group Alabama Appleseed, which filed a lawsuit on the issue in 2018 along with the Southern Center for Human Rights.