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General News    H3'ed 7/9/20

Mid-Sentence Prison Transfers in Alabama (Full Version)

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(Author's Note: Prisoners were interviewed confidentially for this article. They are each identified by a randomly chosen letter to protect their privacy and safety. This series first appeared in Hard Times Review.)

PART 1: "You Will Find Out On The Way."

American prisoners are incarcerated for years, often decades, often a majority of his or her life.

Many prisoners serving more than a couple years are transferred from one prison to another, often multiple times, throughout their sentences. Alabama prisoners speak with HTR about the experience of getting transferred to another prison mid-sentence, and waking up to learn their friends have been transferred.

Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) Communications Director, Linda Mays, writes in an email response to inquiries from HTR regarding this article, that there are "numerous specific reasons that inmates are transferred" from one prison to another mid-sentence, but "It is impossible to explore every scenario" in which transfers occur.

"Typical reasons," Mays adds, "can be broadly categorized under two buckets: healthcare and security." For example, "[A]n inmate may develop a medical condition" that "requires a higher level of care, up to chronic or hospice care. Our facilities' infirmaries are equipped differently, and " an inmate may be transferred to a different facility in order for the Department to best provide for his or her individual healthcare needs."

Transfers may take place for security reasons, Mays continues, for example, "if a crime is perpetrated by one inmate against another, the perpetrator may be validated as an enemy of his or her victim following an investigation," and transferred "once classified as validated enemies." (Some are also transferred to minimum security prisons if their security status is lowered, Mays notes.)

Alabama prisoners describe the reasoning behind their transfers, and the experience of being transferred mid-sentence, differently than the ADOC.

One source, identified as "T," has been imprisoned for around a decade in Alabama, transferred mid-sentence a few times. He interviews in June about the experience of being transferred from one prison to another.

The process is "different at different prisons," he begins.

"Basically," he continues, "they shake you down. The task force puts you in a van. Then, when you get to a prison, they take you in, search all your properties, and make you strip naked. It's a horrible thing. They make you hold your butt cheeks open and cough, all these unnecessary procedures. It's uncalled for."

In T's experience, prisoners sometimes have jobs involved in processing newly arriving prisoners, "So, they can take whatever it is you got, and sell it to other inmates," he explains.

Asked how and when one is informed he will be transferred to another prison if that becomes his fate, T answers, "They don't [inform you] until the day of the move," because "they don't want you to come back into the dorm to anybody else, saying you're leaving to another prison."

He continues: "So, they don't tell you. They just wake you up at about four in the morning, tell you to pack it up, any given day they decide they just don't want you in their prison anymore."

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Matthew Vernon Whalan is a writer and contributing editor for Hard Times Review. His work has appeared in The Alabama Political Reporter, New York Journal of Books, The Brattleboro Reformer, Scheer Post, The Manchester Journal, The Commons, The (more...)

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