Last week, Alabama’s legislature passed a $1.3 billion plan to build two new 4,000 bed prisons in the state. The billion-dollar prison construction bill contains no funding for necessary medical and mental health care, no funding for rehabilitative services and safety programs, no funding for reentry support to reduce recidivism, and no plan for how Alabama will staff two new megaprisons when the state is only able to staff its existing prisons at 40%.
We were joined by Ronald McKeithen, an Alabama Appleseed client who, at age 21, was sentenced to life without parole under Alabama’s merciless “three strikes” law. He devoted decades behind bars to art, learning, and service before Appleseed took on his case in 2020 and won his release. Mr. McKeithen and Alabama Appleseed Executive Director Carla Crowder spoke with the Appleseed Network about how Ron’s case, and the cases of other Alabamians sentenced to die in prison for low-level felonies, has become a rallying cry for reform in the state.
Alabama Appleseed Research Director Leah Nelson also shared the story of how Alabama Appleseed assembled a coalition of veterans, lawmakers, and other advocates to secure the parole of Sean Worsley, a Purple Heart veteran sentenced to five years in prison in Alabama for bringing his legally prescribed medical marijuana into the state.
“Outrage is not enough,” Leah told the network. “We have to change the system, too.”
Appleseed centers have seen first-hand the terrible damage caused by current criminal justice policies – from Alabama Appleseed’s advocacy on their state’s chronically unconstitutional prisons, to Texas Appleseed’s work to end a state policy that accounted for over $1 billion in criminal justice debt, Chicago Appleseed’s leadership in abolishing money bail in Illinois, Georgia Appleseed’s work to end over-policing, Kansas Appleseed’s advocacy on juvenile and criminal justice reform, South Carolina Appleseed’s work on collateral consequences, and Louisiana Appleseed’s criminal justice reform projects.
Mass incarceration sets off ripple effects that extend far beyond the individual, spreading racial and economic disparities across the community and down through generations. New megaprisons won’t fix these problems, but community-tailored, collaborative advocacy like Appleseed’s is helping bring transformation to failing policies.
If you would like to support Alabama Appleseed’s urgently important work, please click here.