The Ordinary People’s Society| Alabama

ANALYSIS: What is happening in your community? What are the problems? What are the assets?

Who attended the Assembly and what are they concerned about?

50 people attended. The group was multiracial, predominantly Black, multigenerational, some older white men and women. A delegation from Mobile, Alabama represented pastors, community organizations, and a new chapter of TOPS. Two former employees of prison security companies were present. “When my conscience would not let me continue, I flipped sides.” Family members of the Free Alabama Movement prison strike organizers were present. “Even in lock-down they are doing what they can for all people.” Prominent community members who had run campaigns for public office against incumbents were present and expressed solidarity with people living inside prisons. 15 Faith-based leaders and pastors were present, and spoke to the leadership of TOPS in advancing social justice in Dothan and across Alabama. A delegation from Georgia represented for the Southern Movement Assembly.

Participants opened with brief but powerful testimonies about their experience with the prison system. Rev. Jones, who had been incarcerated for many years said, “My son is in federal prison without possibility of parole. I am an example that people can change. Just because they’ve been convicted of this or that does not mean that people don’t matter.”

Concerns included the mass incarceration crisis, specifically long sentences, family members being imprisoned without a chance of parole, high financial costs of being incarcerated, traumatic effects of incarceration on families, corporate influence and profit-making within the prison system, and connections to immigrant detention centers.

What is the shared analysis of the problems?

A strong theme of movement-building throughout the assembly was expressed by many participants. People expressed the need for a collaborative movement that bring people together across differences. “We don’t break ground if we don’t walk across boundaries.” The desire and gratitude for people coming together, despite differences of race and religion and age was very loud.

“The movement we have going now is what we need. Parents are hurting, kids are in jail. We need spaces for all of us who have been through something. We need a movement that makes people whole.”  

The participants discussed the upcoming national strike called for by the Free Alabama Movement organizers who are locked up in jails around the state. September 9 marks the 45th Anniversary of the Attica uprising. 40 prison organized groups in 24 states have signed on to hold a non-violent work stoppage with clear demands around compensation for labor, sentencing reforms to end life without parole, and addressing the inhumane conditions of overcrowding.

The call for people on the outside is to participate in the National Day of Solidarity on Sept 9 through local actions & vigils at prisons and jails, connecting to people inside, and communicating personal testimonies of experiences with the prison system, both ourselves and our loved ones inside.