Ex-Con Who Helped Bernie Sanders with Prison Reform Now Facing 2 Felony Charges
A former inmate who helped the campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont develop its positions on prison issues has been arrested after he was accused of stealing cellblock keys to a Tennessee prison that is under construction.
Alex Friedmann, 50, was arrested Saturday at the Downtown Detention Center in Nashville, according to a statement from the Davidson County Sheriff’s Office.
Friedmann, who is managing editor of Prison Legal News, was charged with attempted burglary, evidence tampering and possession of burglary tools.
The role of Friedmann in the Sanders campaign was highlighted in an annual report of the Human Rights Defense Center.
“Beginning in August 2015, staff at U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ office consulted with several criminal justice organizations, including HRDC, for a bill he planned to introduce related to the private prison industry,” the report said.
“Alex Friedmann participated in multiple conference calls with the Senator’s staff and suggested the name that was eventually used for the bill, the ‘Justice is Not for Sale Act’ (S.2054/H.R.3543), which was introduced on September 17, 2015,” it said. “Among other provisions, the bill would ban all private prisons.”
At the time, Friedman was listed as associate director of the HRDC.
Friedmann was arrested in 1987 for armed robbery and assault with attempt to commit murder and again in 1991, when he was charged with attempted aggravated robbery.
Overall, he has served 10 years behind bars, according to The Washington Free Beacon.
Friedmann’s latest arrest came after the discovery of missing keys at the 762-bed Downtown Detention Center, which is scheduled to open in February.
According to the sheriff’s office’s statement, its personnel were in the prison control room on Dec. 30 “and noticed a set of keys with a ring that looked different from the others. After an audit, it was confirmed two facility keys were missing.”
Video evidence showed that “an individual dressed like a construction worker wearing a yellow vest and dust mask and matching the description of Friedmann, was seen spray painting around the key control room door.”
“He entered the room and placed a key ring in his pocket, left the DDC through the front lobby, returned two hours later, and replaced the keys, again with two missing. It was also discovered he previously entered the building under false pretenses on at least three other occasions,” the statement said.
Friedmann was detained Saturday when deputies saw him enter the facility.
“An igloo cooler Friedmann carried into the facility contained bolt cutters, a key chit (used in corrections as a security measure to identify keys), and a document identified as schematics of the DDC. Friedman was also seen on video trying to destroy this document by ‘ripping it and chewing it up,’” the statement said.
Sheriff @DaronHall7 announced Alex Friedmann, 50, a longtime criminal justice advocate and managing editor of Prison Legal News is free on bond after being charged with attempted burglary, evidence tampering, and possession of burglary tools at the Downtown Detention Center. pic.twitter.com/9TH36HS2OW
— Nashville Sheriff (@NashSheriff) January 5, 2020
“The seriousness of Mr. Friedmann’s charges cannot be ignored,” Sheriff Daron Hall said. “His actions have placed the safety and security of our entire community in peril, not to mention DCSO staff and inmates.
“There are many items of value in a $200 million facility that can be stolen if your motivation is profit. There is only one reason for these sinister acts and that is to compromise our ability to maintain a secure facility and that is unconscionable and dangerous for everyone.”
Officials said the incident could delay the opening of the facility.
“Mr. Friedmann is a smart man. He knew exactly what he was doing with the keys. This isn’t some accident,” Hall said, according to WSMV-TV in Nashville.
When WSMV contacted Friedmann, who is free on bond, he said he had no comment on the incident.
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