A group of Alabama inmates are on strike for prison reform, and some say their list of demands include "absurd" ideas that "do little" to improve conditions.

Former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Jay Town took to Twitter on Tuesday to address the eight demands made by Alabama prison workers who started striking Monday morning.

The inmate worker strike followed a call by prison reform organization Both Sides of the Wall for prisoners to stop working.

Reports said around 80 members of Both Sides of the Wall held a rally outside the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) office in Montgomery on Monday morning to call for prison reform. The group included family members of inmates as well as former inmates. 

Town became former President Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama in June 2017 and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in the following months. Town served until he resigned in July 2020.

Town is now general counsel at Huntsville military defense and cybersecurity contractor Gray Analytics.

According to Town, Alabama prisoners provided the ADOC with the following list of demands:

  1. Guaranteed parole;

  2. Repeal the Habitual Felony Offender Act immediately;

  3. Eliminate life without parole;

  4. Eliminate the 30-year minimum for capital offenders under 18;

  5. Create a parole review board;

  6. Streamline the medical furlough process;

  7. Ensure eligible persons receive “good time” or early release due to good behavior; and

  8. Create a statewide conviction integrity unit.

Town presented his argument for why the demands are unachievable in a Twitter thread on Tuesday night.

“Parole is not a right,” Town tweeted. “It is a privilege to exit a lawful sentence early.”

Town said that repealing the Habitual Felony Offender Act (HFOA) would take an act of the Alabama Legislature, which will not be in session until next year. He claimed that sentencing guidelines have effectively eliminated HFOA principles.

About eliminating leave without pay, Town said that it would let violent offenders out of prisons.

“[The Supreme Court] will not allow [life without parole] or death for capital murder,” Town said of demand number four. “Alabama requires 30 years be served instead before parole eligible. Thirty years for capital murder is far more lenient than death or [life without parole].”

According to Town, if Alabama were to create a parole review board, it would have an oversight board to double-check its decisions. Town said that around 70% to 80% of ADOC prisoners are violent offenders, adding that some treat parole as if it's a right when it's not. 

Town agreed that the medical furlough process should “continually develop more efficiencies” and that prisoners deserve “adequate healthcare.” However, he said that the streamlining of this process has to be reasonable.

Town asserted that early release, or “good time,” must be “tempered by the incarcerated offense.” 

“Just ask Sheffield PD Nick Risner’s family what they think of early release!” Town tweeted. “Or countless other families who have an empty seat at the table for the holidays.”

Town called the creation of a Conviction Integrity Unit a “chapter in the Book of Bad Ideas” and said that it would be an extrajudicial process where civilians can contest juries.

Prison conditions have plagued the state of Alabama for many years. 

In 2020, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against the state of Alabama concerning poor prison sanitation, violence between inmates, excessive force from staff and sexual assault.

The lawsuit resulted from a multi-year investigation conducted by the DOJ Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Offices for the Northern, Middle and Southern Districts of Alabama.

In October 2021, Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation authorizing the ADOC to build two new 4,000-bed mega prisons to address the issues. Though the plan faced political and economic obstacles, it secured a $509 million bond deal in July.

“Our prisons in Alabama must improve, or [the U.S. Department of Justice] will improve them for us,” Town tweeted. “My signature is on the Letter of Findings when DOJ put Alabama on notice of this inherited problem.”

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