---- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, March 13, 2003 10:24 PM
Subject: Housing prisoners in modern day slave ships
,by Richard Mafundi Lake
In January 2003, officials at William Donaldson prison began the process of adding another bed in the two-men cells. This triple-celling is reminiscent of crowding slaves spoon-fashion into the holds of nefarious slave ships and into the debilitating squalor of the slave quarters on Southern plantations. The cells at Donaldson Prison were originally designed for one-man occupancy. The original designed capacity was for 500 prisoners.
In 1982, a federal court order mandating one-man cells at Donaldson and prisons built in the future was violated and undermined by Alabama prison officials. One-man cells were turned into two-man cells as a response to the rapidly increasing prisoner population.
This federal court order had been issued by Judge Frank M. Johnson in 1976. Alabama is notorious for defying federal court orders and for electing defiant, recalcitrant and myopic state officials. Consequently, Alabama is rated at the very bottom of every index regarding the quality of life.
A few weeks ago, the prison administration here at William Donaldson began adding yet another bed to the present two-man cells and turning the cells into three-man cells. This triple celling has further exacerbated an already stifling and unhealthy environment. In these 6-by-9 cells, there is no moving around space. Healthcare, security, visitation, outdoor exercise, legal supplies and access to the law library, food portions and the quality of food have all been affected and severely reduced.
Prisoners are being moved around like musical chairs in a pseudo attempt to give the appearance of complying with existing law. Whereas the reality is that the situation is made more inhumane and more intolerant. Tension is intensifying among the prisoners and the guards. The overcrowded conditions have created a deplorable and deteriorating prison environment - an environment that is dangerous for prisoners and the guards.
It is our hope that the courts will grant adequate and proper relief and enjoin Donaldson prison officials from triple celling and provide a more rational and humane remedy to the overcrowded situation in Alabama prisons.
These cases are pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in Birmingham, Ala.: Rowell vs. Riley, et al, CV-03 JEO-0274-S; Sabir vs Riley, et al, CV-03-AR-276-S; preliminary injuction filed by Richard Lake in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Montgomery, Ala.
Write to: Richard Mafundi Lake, #079972, Donaldson Correctional Facility, 100 Warrior Lane, #4-42B, Bessemer AL 35023-7299.