(This article first appeared in The Hard Times Review. Contributions made by T. Wilmot.)
(Author's note: Prisoners interviewed on the condition of confidentiality for this article, and are identified by letters.)
Late July, a prisoner in Kilby interviews with HTR about living conditions, overcrowding, violence, misconduct, the coronavirus pandemic, and the larger system of mass incarceration in Alabama and The United States. He is identified as "M" in this article.
Mt. Meigs, Alabama, a municipality of Montgomery, contains Kilby Prison for adult males. Kilby has long been the processing center for those recently sentenced, where they await transfer to the next prison, until it is decided when and where they will go. In usual, pre-pandemic times, prisoners were rarely held in Kilby longer than six months or a year.
"The living conditions in Kilby are just about like everywhere else" in Alabama prisons, M begins. "Social distancing - it's never going to get like that around here," he adds, due to overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.
The ADOC has acknowledged in email responses for previous articles, published in HTR and elsewhere, that social distancing is impossible in prison.
Referring to assaults and other incidents of violence and altercations, "Correctional Officers on inmates, that is happening every day, all day long," says M.
"So, only way you're going to be able to solve [abuse of prisoners] is - I don't know " (trails off) I don't believe it'll ever stop," he adds.
He describes one incident he saw firsthand a few days before our interview, which he feels is typical.
"I done seen an officer walk up on a dude smokin a cigarette, and slap him so hard he turned around and hit the corner of his [bed]rack, and busted his whole forehead. I done seen that," M recalls.
"Whenever they feel like it - it's like [officers] come in here with their own problems from the house. If you're a coward on the street, but in here, you're given the right to do whatever, and people in here ain't doin that to you, so you got the bigger advantage to slap on em, hit on em, and do whatever, knowing that these [prisoners] are just trying to go home, and they'd risk their life trying to retaliate" against a guard who assaults them, says M.
He says other prisoners were slapped the day of the interview for this article as well. He says slapping is a common tactic for Kilby officers.
In Ventress, prisoners have reported that officers commonly "kag" them, a way of tripping someone from behind while he is standing still. The ADOC answers a request for comment from HTR on whether they are aware of prisoners being slapped by guards in Kilby. ADOC Spokeswoman Samantha Rose writes that the Department "cannot comment on unsubstantiated allegations," and claims that "there is no real evidence to indicate excessive use of force is pervasive at any of our facilities." Nearly every Alabama prisoner interviewed by this writer over the past few months has claimed otherwise.
Asked if prisoners are filing Civil Action complaints against officers regarding these incidents, "They're scared," says M in Kilby.
"If you file a complaint on " a guard, next time [that guard] see you, you'll be deep off in the hole somewhere. Nobody'll be able to see you. Your mail get took. It'll come up, and ain't nobody got it. You know. There's all kinds of issues like that," M explains.
Even for an average prisoner, one who is not in trouble or singled out more than most others for anything, it's already "hard to even get mail to go out on the right time. My wife'll receive mail six, seven days, sometimes a week or two later. It's like - I don't know - if they feel like you've got something like that going on, that you're trying to report them or something, or write something, that mail will never leave. It'll be disregarded," he says.
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