Lawsuit filed seeking to end forced labor in Alabama’s prison system

On December 12, 2023, ten individuals currently and formerly incarcerated by the Alabama Department of Corrections, joined by the Union of Southern Service Workers, The Woods Foundation, and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, Mid-South Council, filed a federal class action lawsuit against Alabama state officials and public and private employers, challenging a modern-day form of “convict leasing” in the Alabama prison system that disproportionately traps Black incarcerated persons in a forced labor scheme that generates approximately $450 million in annual economic benefits for the state. Plaintiffs allege that incarcerated persons in Alabama are forced to work, often for little or no money, for the benefit of the state and the many public and private employers that participate in the forced labor scheme. The complaint also alleges that Alabama is maintaining a parole system that forces incarcerated persons to remain subjected to the extraordinarily violent and dangerous Alabama prison system—and its forced labor scheme—long after they qualify for release under evidence-based criteria the Parole Board is required to consider, and that Alabama racially discriminates in the granting of parole and setting of parole rehearing dates. Plaintiffs allege violations of the U.S. Constitution, the Alabama Constitution, and other federal laws designed to prevent human trafficking and discrimination.

The defendants include the governor and attorney general of Alabama, the chair of the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, local governments such as the City of Montgomery, and private employers such as Bama Budweiser and franchisees of McDonald’s, KFC, and Wendy’s, among others. The suit seeks to ensure that Alabama’s parole system functions constitutionally, an end to the state’s forced-labor practices, damages for the harmed individuals, and disgorgement of economic benefits. Altshuler Berzon LLP is serving as counsel to the plaintiffs, along with Justice Catalyst Law, Faraino, LLC, and Quinn, Connor, Weaver, Davies & Rouco LLP.

 

The complaint can be found here.

 

News reports on the lawsuit can be found here:

NYTimes

Washington Post

NPR (*NPR erroneously states that there are 14 plaintiffs; there are 13.)