Alabama Prison Crisis: Another Prisoner Nearing Release Is Murdered


Barry Gardner, 33, was stabbed to death Tuesday in an open dormitory at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility near Birmingham, Alabama.

He had served 11 years of a 13-year sentence for burglary and theft of property when he was killed. In August 2021, his petition for parole was denied.

Mr. Gardner is the fourth person in the past 12 months to be murdered in an Alabama prison shortly before reaching the end of their prison sentence.

On February 8, 2021, Dexter Freeman was stabbed to death at St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Alabama, nine months before completing his sentence. The following day, David Franklin was killed at Donaldson just two months before ending his sentence.

Ian Rettig was stabbed to death at Fountain Correctional Facility in Atmore on May 4, 2021, one day before he was scheduled to be released.

At least 67 people have been killed in Alabama’s prisons since the Department of Justice opened an investigation in October 2016 into the prison system. Federal investigators found that the “systemic and life-threatening” levels of violence in the state’s prisons violate the constitutional rights of incarcerated people.

The Alabama Department of Corrections has long been aware of the extreme rates of violence in its prisons.

In 2009, men incarcerated at Donaldson filed a class action lawsuit alleging that rampant violence and overcrowding at the prison violated their Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

In 2019, the Justice Department notified ADOC that the number of violent incidents had actually increased since the start of its investigation.

But, as federal prosecutors alleged in a federal lawsuit against Alabama, violence in the state’s prisons has continued unabated.

In an amended complaint filed on May 19, 2021, the Justice Department wrote:

Since the United States notified the State of its findings, Alabama’s Prisons for Men have remained extremely overcrowded, prisoner-on-prisoner homicides have increased, prisoner-on-prisoner violence including sexual abuse has continued unabated, the physical facilities have remained inadequate, use of excessive force by security staff has remained common, and staffing rates have remained critically and dangerously low.