MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- A former corrections officer on Friday compared Alabama prisons to a "third world country with a concrete floor" and said he believes federal officials should intervene in the system.
"The Alabama Department of Corrections is not in control of any prison in Alabama and hasn't been for a while," Stacy George, who recently resigned after 13 1/2 years at Limestone Correctional Facility, said.
George, who ran for governor in 2014 and 2022, spoke to reporters and relatives of prisoners outside the Department of Corrections headquarters, saying he wanted people to hear the truth about what was going on inside. George recently resigned because of complications from an injury.
He described coming into work and seeing blood trails through the prison, inmates threatening suicide with nooses or razor blades, and staffing levels so low that made it difficult to monitor the prison or care for inmates in need.
"We have to treat people like human beings. Everybody's in danger -- the officers, the incarcerated individuals," George said.
George said sometimes there would be nine officers working in the prison that houses 2,200 inmates. He said there should be about 35. "There could be people bleeding to death in the cell and nobody even know it for hours," George said.
George, a Republican, said he believes politics contributed to overcrowding. Politicians and judges seek lengthy prison sentences for offenders, he said, while there is political pressure to keep parole rates low.
George said he hopes federal officials will intervene in the system. George said conditions have rapidly deteriorated in recent months. Department reports show the number of security staff decreased from 2,177 on Oct. 31, 2021 to 1,879 on June 30.
Alabama inmates in September went on a work strike to protest conditions in the state's lock-ups, refusing to labor in prison kitchens, laundries and more.
The Alabama Department of Corrections, in a statement to al.com, said it could not comment on George's statement about staffing numbers
"Staffing is the subject of ongoing litigation and court orders," the ADOC said. "Additionally, disclosure of specific staff numbers at a facility creates the risk of a security issue. For these reasons, the Department is unable to comment on specific staff numbers and/or implications.
"However, the Department is actively engaged in a number of initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining correctional officers and other facility staff, including medical and mental health staff. The focus on staffing of facilities is a Departmental priority." The state has raised officer pay but continues to struggle with staffing.
The U.S. Department of Justice has an ongoing lawsuit against Alabama over prisons it says are "riddled with prisoner-on-prisoner and guard-on-prisoner violence."
The lawsuit accuses Alabama of operating prisons where conditions are so poor they violate the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. While Alabama has acknowledged problems in state prisons, the state is disputing the Justice Department's allegations of unconstitutional conditions and is fighting the lawsuit in court.