“Thank you for everything you’re doing!” and “Freedom for all!” were heard from the inside of Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama as dozens of activists gathered outside on Father’s Day. In addition to the regular jail population, Etowah County Jail contracts with Immigration Customs Enforcement to hold undocumented immigrants from around the South. It is a notorious institution with shocking human rights abuses for both immigrants and citizens alike.

Incarcerated men inside the Etowah Detention Center hold up messages to the protesters outside. Liberation photo: Estevan Hernandez

Incarcerated men inside the Etowah Detention Center hold up messages to the protesters outside. Liberation photo: Estevan Hernandez

“We cannot call our family… They shut the phones down for two days. We need your help!” the incarcerated people cried. “We cannot eat in here… The food is all watered down. The food is all trash.” Some of them held up messages written on fabric and banged on the windows. The protesters chanted back in solidarity, “We hear you, we see you!” and “Shut down Etowah!”

Etowah has been cited for horrible cases of abuse. The combination of poor conditions, inadequate diet and the denial of medical care has resulted in health complications that become life threatening. In some instances, like that of Teka Gulema from Ethiopia, these conditions have even resulted in death. People are locked up for the crime of living and trying to provide for a family, but that’s how it is under capitalism: the rich monetize, while the workers are criminalized.

The Shut Down Etowah campaign was formed in order to do just that; fight for the rights of the incarcerated men and shut down the Etowah Jail. “We are out here because its Father’s Day… and we know that one of the main problems with deportation and detention is the separation of families,” activist Lisa Moyer said in an interview with Liberation News.

Moyers, who has been with the campaign since it started in 2014, continued, “The sheriff and police staff are a little bit mocking and they don’t appreciate us being here but I think that tells us we are doing something right… we’re trying to build with [the community] and reach out to them and people have been pretty receptive towards us… we find that there are so many connections to be made between the jail and the detention center.” She explained that while they would love to see Etowah shut down, ultimately what she wants is a world without prisons.

A quick Google search will reveal other cases of maddening corruption in Etowah. In 2018 it was uncovered that County Sheriff Todd Entrekin took home some $750,000 that had been allocated to the jail’s food budget. But, absurdly, in Alabama it is perfectly legal, albeit blatantly corrupt, for him to take that money and purchase a $740,000 beach house.

These sickening realities reveal that the system of racist mass incarceration in capitalist America must be brought to an end. You can help shut down Etowah by clicking here and by getting involved in the weekly meetings.