Former Ala. CO calls for 'National Guard, state troopers to come in right now'

Stacy Lee George, who worked at Limestone Correctional Facility for over a decade, said the public needs to know how dangerous conditions are in the prison


By Mike Cason
AL.com

LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. — Stacy Lee George, a former candidate for governor who said he resigned Oct. 26 after working at a north Alabama prison for more than 13 years, said the public needs to know how dangerous conditions are in the prison.

George, 53, said he resigned from his job at Limestone Correctional Facility because of problems related to a back injury he suffered in a prison vehicle accident about a year ago. He said he could not work in the section of the prison where he was assigned because it required climbing stairs.

Stacy Lee George, a former correctional officer at Limestone Correctional Facility, and his wife.
Stacy Lee George, a former correctional officer at Limestone Correctional Facility, and his wife. (Photo/Mike Cason of AL.com via TNS)

George, who ran for the Republican nomination for governor in 2014 and again this year, said he feels an obligation to talk publicly about the conditions that confront his former co-workers in prison and the inmates.

Limestone is a “close security” prison, the highest security classification, and had 2,246 inmates as of August, the most recent statistical report on the Alabama Department of Corrections website. Limestone is by far Alabama’s largest prison. George said the low number of officers on duty at certain times is a critical problem.

“There could be eight or 10 officers, maybe 12 at times,” said George of the numbers that are well below what he says are needed. “You’re looking at eight officers and two nurses trying to take care of 2,300 inmates. One for segregation and one for population. Medications, no telling when you get it. Sometimes food, no telling when you’re going to get it. Sometimes we don’t even have soap.

“It will make you cry as a human being, what I’ve seen in that prison,” George said. “It will make you cry what’s going on right now. From the officers’ standpoint, and the inmates’ and the support personnel. The officers are in bondage, too. They’re in so much danger.”

The Alabama Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to a request for comment on George’s statements.

[RELATED: Alabama prison staffing numbers continue to fall in recent report]

Reports of dangerous conditions in Alabama prisons are not new. The U.S. Department of Justice sued Alabama in December 2020. The DOJ said the state failed to protect incarcerated men from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and sexual abuse, failed to provide safe and sanitary conditions, and subjected prisoners to excessive force at the hands of prison staff. The DOJ said the conditions violate the 8th Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments.

The state has acknowledged problems in it prisons, including severe understaffing, but denies that conditions violate the constitution.

George said he will have a press conference Friday in Montgomery and try to figuratively take people inside Limestone by describing conditions. He said he’s not speaking out for political reasons but because he believes the situation is urgent. He said the shortage of officers is the biggest problem, critical enough that the National Guard or State Troopers should be called in to help.

“The best thing I can do, I’ve prayed about it, and the best thing to do is just take you into the prison,” George said. “Tomorrow I’m going to walk right into that prison at that press conference. Nonpolitical. Nothing about nobody. I’m not blaming anybody. I’m just calling out in desperation for the National Guard, the State Troopers to come in right now. We have to have that right now. And it’s not getting out to the public how dangerous it is.

Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm talked to state lawmakers in August about the shortage of officers. Hamm said the ADOC struggled to compete for job candidates against other law enforcement agencies that have higher starting pay.

The ADOC has been under a federal court order for several years to increase its correctional staff but it losing ground. A quarterly statistical report showed the agency’s security staff dropped from 2,225 in September 2021 to 1,879 in June 2022, a 15 percent decrease.

George said the shortage results in basic human needs going unmet. He said sometimes it takes hours to find a stabbing victim.

[RELATED: Ala. approves budget to hire 500 additional COs]

“People need to hear this,” George said. “This is dangerous for officers, inmates, everybody. If they don’t believe they (inmates) are human, maybe they’ll listen to officers in blue that are in danger.”

George said his goal is to get some emergency assistance into the prisons.

“I’m going to do whatever I can to get the National Guard in, the State Troopers in, and get action to be taken, whatever it takes,” George said. “Somebody has to come in right now. Not next week. Right now.”

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