A long serving officer in the Alabama Department of Corrections called on federal authorities to intervene in the state’s prison crisis, which he says is putting incarcerated people, officers, and the public at risk.
Officer Stacy George resigned last month after serving as a correctional officer for more than 13 years at Limestone Correctional Facility near Harvest, Alabama. He reported that severe understaffing—which ADOC described as a “critical shortage of correctional officers” in 2017—was the worst he had experienced in his career, with many shifts operating with fewer than a quarter of the number of officers needed to supervise more than 2,200 people incarcerated at Limestone.
Officer George said this meant officers were unable to observe or respond to many assaults at the prison. “There could be someone bleeding to death in a cell and you might not know it for hours,” he said.
George also described that when officers arrived in the dorm on a recent day “there were blood trails all over the place. It took us four hours to find all the [stabbed] prisoners because there we were so short-staffed.”
The shortages also mean that over the past three months officers have not been searched for contraband when they enter the prison. George said that he knew that officers were assisting in bringing drugs into the prison, and that with the lack of security “[correctional officers] could’ve brought a gun in,” he said. “Most people aren’t bringing guns, but they could.”
Officer George criticized the state’s plan to build new prisons, which he said would not fix the systemic problems already in the system. He questioned how the new facilities would be staffed when Alabama “can’t staff the ones it has now.”
Instead, he said that part of the solution needs to be a reduction of the prison population, including reforming life-without-parole sentences and modifying the state’s parole process to grant parole to more eligible incarcerated people.
In the meantime, Officer George said that “this has to be handled right now. It can’t go any further, because this is the boiling point.” He said that the situation is urgent enough to mobilize the National Guard or state troopers to help manage prisons, and called upon the Department of Justice to intervene.
The DOJ filed a lawsuit against the State of Alabama and the Department of Corrections over the dangerous conditions in state’s prison system in December 2020. The lawsuit alleges that the State’s failure to remedy the unconstitutional conditions in the prisons, despite being on notice of violations for over two years, constitutes deliberate indifference by state officials to the constitutional rights of its incarcerated people. The case remains ongoing.