Over the past four months, ALC’s passionate lawyers and organizers have waged major advances in our abolitionist litigation and movement-building across Pennsylvania. In the face of reactionary politicians and racial capitalism’s compounding crises that leave our most vulnerable community members subject to increased brutality and neglect, we remain steadfast in our mission to bring people home and create life-affirming alternatives to the punishment system. Read up on the dynamic ways we are carrying out abolition by visiting the hyperlinked content below.
McCray v. Allegheny County – After a year of being routinely denied medical care, outside treatment, and prescribed medical devices inside Allegheny County Jail, 26-year-old Clayton McCray was forced to have a below the knee amputation. Represented by ALC Staff Attorney Jaclyn Kurin, Clayton is now suing the ACJ Medical Director, medical staff, and former Deputy Warden, Laura Williams, for ADA violations, unconstitutional medical care, and medical malpractice. Check out the filed complaint and Clayton’s GoFundMe, along with interviews of Clayton and Jaclyn here.
Scott v. PA Board of Probation and Parole – With support from Amistad Law Project and Center for Constitutional Rights, ALC Legal Director Bret Grote traveled to Pittsburgh to present an oral argument before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on behalf of our clients challenging the lifetime ban on parole for those sentenced to death by incarceration (DBI) for “felony murder”. After the lower courts ruled against our clients last year, citing lack of jurisdiction, Grote urged the PA Supreme Court to overturn this decision and allow the case – and the voices of the over 1,100 people serving DBI sentences for felony murder in PA – to be heard. Learn more about this historic case here and read the play-by-play of the April oral argument in Pittsburgh City Paper.
Compassionate release for Bradford Gamble – ALC Staff Attorney Rupalee Rashatwar successfully petitioned for the freedom of Bradford Gamble, an elder living with late-stage cancer who had been incarcerated for more than 40 years. Under a 2009 statute, a terminally ill incarcerated individual in Pennsylvania can be transferred from a state prison to a home or hospital setting – but only with the caveat that they forgo life-saving treatment for their debilitating illness. Following Gamble’s homecoming, Rupalee said, “We must bring our medically vulnerable elders, like Mr. Gamble, home. His case is one that truly demonstrates how cruel and callous the prison medical system can be towards a dying man. Reforming our laws so that more of our elders can access this kind of relief must be an urgent priority for us all.” Learn more about the restrictions of compassionate release and Bradford Gamble’s return home in Spotlight PA and Workers World.
ALC in Harrisburg – Sustained opposition to the deceitful probation reform bill SB 913 and mounting legislative interest in meaningful bail reforms continued this spring. Introduced last year, SB913 has drawn fierce protest from “virtually all of the major decerceral grassroots orgs” in Pennsylvania. While Dolly Prabhu, John Thompson, and Robert Saleem Holbrook of ALC educated elected officials on the harms of the bill, ALC Movement Director, Autumn Redcross, testified before the PA House Democratic Policy Committee. Autumn informed legislators of how cash bail and pretrial detention function as forms of racialized punishment. Watch Autumn’s full testimony on YouTube, and read Dolly’s op-ed denouncing SB 913 here.
Shakaboona is FREE! – On May 11th, after over 30 years in prison, incarcerated since 1998 when he was just 17-years-old, ALC client, friend, and comrade, Kerry ‘Shakaboona’ Marshall stepped out into the free world. Resentenced to time served, Shakaboona’s hard fought freedom signals a huge victory for inside-outside family organizing in Pennsylvania. Shakaboona and his mother, Patricia Vickers, co-founded the Human Rights Coalition in 2000 alongside other incarcerated community members, including ALC’s Executive Director, Robert Saleem Holbook. ALC Legal Director and Shakaboona’s lawyer, Bret Grote, began volunteering with HRC in 2007 and six years later Bret co-founded ALC with ALC Director of Operations, Dustin McDaniel. Read more about Shakaboona’s freedom struggle in this blog post by Amistad Law Project.
2022 Prison Law & Advocacy Conference (PLAC) – At the biennial conference in Chicago, ALC Co-Founder and Director of Operations, Dustin McDaniel, presented on ALC’s innovative litigation and coalition-building strategies that stopped the construction of the most expensive proposed federal prison in US history from being built in Kentucky in 2019. ALC Board President, Jamelia Morgan, who was named 2022 Professor of the Year at University of California-Irvine School of Law, also presented on her disability justice work, while ALC Paralegal, Jonas Cabellero, presented on his pro-se litigation.
Justice for Gerald Thomas – On June 2nd, ALC joined the family and friends of Gerald Thomas, alongside victims and survivors of Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) in Pittsburgh to call attention to both the ongoing crises of deaths and medical neglect overseen by Warden Orlando Harper, and the racist judicial misconduct deployed by local Allegheny County Judge Anthony Mariani. The event took place just days after Juana Sanders, the mother of Gerald Thomas, went public with her judicial misconduct filing against Mariani. Thomas was 26 years old when he died in ACJ on March 6, 2022 – 17 days after Judge Mariani chose to keep Thomas trapped inside ACJ despite all of his charges being dropped. More info on the misconduct complaint against Mariani, along with media coverage from the rally and Jail Oversight Board meeting that followed available here.
Howard v. Williams – After a 20-month investigation, ALC lawyers and co-counsel, Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project (PILP), and Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, filed a motion in federal court seeking authorization to pursue class action relief for all incarcerated people at the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ) requiring mental health care now and in the future. The motion contains compelling evidence that AJC has been violating the rights of incarcerated people with psychiatric disabilities by failing to provide them with proper treatment and subjecting them to prolonged solitary confinement and routine excessive force. Read the press release on the motion here and visit our Howard v. Williams case page.
Juneteenth Bailout! – ALC Court Watch’s first-ever Juneteenth Bailout was a huge success thanks to the hard work of volunteers in Pittsburgh. Court watchers observed dozens of preliminary bail hearings throughout the 48-hour event, surveilling local judges’ behavior, and coordinating with local bail funds to get neighbors out of pretrial detention. Aftercare volunteers gave out bus passes, snacks, Lyft rides and more to those released from Allegheny County Jail. Check out ALC Court Watch on Mobilize for upcoming events and trainings.
DONATE TO DECARCERATE
ALC uses two main tactics in our fight for freedom: public interest litigation, and grassroots community organizing.
We get people out of jail and prison. We work to protect people who are still inside. We strive to reduce the number of people who are incarcerated in the first place. And we extract financial resources from carceral institutions and redirect them to the people the system has harmed.
Since our founding in 2013, we’ve been notching groundbreaking progress on winning the release of people serving multi-decade sentences, curtailing the use of solitary confinement, ending death by incarceration (life without parole), mandating appropriate care for incarcerated people with psychiatric and other disabilities, and protecting the rights and wellbeing of people inside in a host of other ways.
And in all that we do, we center the leadership of and take direction from those who are directly impacted by the criminal punishment system, especially people who are currently or formerly incarcerated and their loved ones.
We know that those who are most impacted by state violence must lead the fight to end it. But we also know that we need the backing and support of a broad community.
Please make a tax-deductible donation to ALC today to fuel the fight for freedom.
ALC STAFF PICKS: SUMMER READING LIST
Tanisha, Amber, Nia, Al and Rupalee share out on six powerful books that inspire us to keep dreaming, dismantling and building – together – when so much feels impossible.
Felon: Poems by Reginald Dwayne Betts
“This collection of poems gives a raw and emotional insight into the far-reaching and soul crushing effects of a carceral system that disproportionately targets Black men. By using a mix of free verse poetry and narratives crafted through real redacted court transcripts, Betts gives readers a fresh but heartbreaking look into the way formerly incarcerated individuals navigate life forever changed by incarceration. Felon: Poems will have the reader cycling through moments of grief, anger, humor, inspiration, and hope as Betts lays bare the true cost of incarceration.”
– Tanisha Long, Allegheny County Organizer
Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling by Esi Edugyan
“I was drawn to this book as someone whose work involves elevating the stories of folks impacted by and working to transform the criminal punishment system which overwhelmingly targets Black and Brown people. Out of the Sun focuses on Black representation in visual art, literature, and film, filtered through the intimate lens of the author’s lived experience as a Black Canadian who has held fellowships in the U.S., Scotland, Iceland, Germany, Hungary, Finland, Spain, and Belgium. The book examines historical and current events and works of art as it explores ‘what happens when we begin to consider stories at the margins, when we grant them centrality,’ and how that affects ‘our certainties about who we are, as individuals, as nations, as human beings.’”
– Amber Black, Development Director
Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis
“Are Prisons Obsolete? was one of the first books I read in the prison abolition canon. Professor Davis’s focus on social movements throughout history showed me that another world is possible. The book highlights that through the work of the people, we can make these present systems untenable to bring forth new horizons.”
– Nia Holston, Staff Attorney
My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet
“This collection of poems is dedicated to ‘children and the women, like [herself] who struggled to reason bringing them into this world.’ Monet’s poems don’t turn away from the violence and traumas that often make it feel hard to care for each other, but her belief in the powers of ‘risk and ruthless radical love’ provides optimism and a vision of a better future. A future where we hold each other with care and nurturance.”
– Al Depiro, Administrative Manager
We Do This ‘Til We Free Us by Mariame Kaba
“This is the textbook for anyone who wants to understand what the abolitionist organizing movement is about. This book compiles a series of essays that delve into the heart of prison abolition and that center important questions like what accountability and transformative justice can look like and how the current system does nothing to deliver on those promises. You’ll also find tips in here for evaluating police ‘reformist reforms’ that ought to be opposed, and frameworks for how we can organize against prisons, policing, and the criminal punishment system . For anyone who wants to learn more about practical ways to organize around abolition, who wants to find and explore answers to commonly asked questions or concerns about the prison abolitionist movement, I highly recommend you grab a copy of this book.”
– Rupalee Rashatwar, Staff Attorney
HELP US FIGHT THE ALT-RIGHT
Pennsylvania is not only home to some of the most extreme carceral practices in the nation, it’s also a key battleground in this country’s urgent, existential struggle against the surging alt-Right.
We’re fighting with everything we’ve got to resist the rise of bold-faced racism and fascism that’s threatening to strip away our hard won rights and set us back decades in our collective movement for freedom and equality for all.
We’re wielding groundbreaking litigation to protect and liberate incarcerated people. We’re mounting pressure campaigns and mobilizing affected communities. And we’re reshaping the narratives around the criminal punishment system, and targeting every point on its conveyor belt, including policing, the courts, cash bail, probation, parole, jails, and prisons.
With wins that roll back mass incarceration in Pennsylvania, we can lead the country in doing the same. Please join us in the struggle by giving generously with a tax-deductible contribution today.