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Texas Should Not Have Executed Robert Pruett

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Update: Robert Pruett was executed by lethal injection on Thursday.
Robert Pruett is scheduled to be executed by the State of Texas Thursday. He has never had a chance to live outside a prison as an adult. Taking his life is a senseless wrong that shows how badly the justice system fails juveniles.
Mr. Pruett was 15 years old when he last saw the outside world, after being arrested as an accomplice to a murder committed by his own father. Now 38, having been convicted of a murder while incarcerated, he will be put to death. At a time when the Supreme Court has begun to recognize excessive punishments for juveniles as unjust, Mr. Pruett’s case shows how young lives can be destroyed by a justice system that refuses to give second chances.
Mr. Pruett’s father, Sam Pruett, spent much of Mr. Pruett’s early childhood in prison. Mr. Pruett and his three siblings were raised in various trailer parks by his mother, who he has said used drugs heavily and often struggled to feed the children. Wh…

Death behind bars: Buried in Alabama's prison cemeteries, life sentences last beyond death

Lowered into an eternal tomb just a few hundred feet from their mortal cage, for some Alabama prisoners, a life sentence does not end upon death.

For those who perish behind bars in Alabama without a penny to their name or family to handle their affairs, one of the state's three aging prison cemeteries often serves as a final resting place.

Inmates and correctional officers can see the gravestones when they walk the prison grounds. Inmates at Limestone Correctional Facility say they avoid stepping on a large patch of grass near the prison cemetery there because of rumors that an unknown number of unmarked bodies lie below.

Some prisoners mow the grass when it grows too tall between the rows of cement slabs that mark the dead. Others are tasked with digging their fellow inmates' graves, and another crew stamps names, identification numbers and dates of birth and death into the slabs.

Over the years, legal advocacy groups, federal authorities and journalists have examined almost every aspect of the lives of Alabama inmates. But little outside attention has been paid to how the state Department of Corrections handles mundane deaths and the bodies left behind.

'Professionalism and dignity'


An old oak tree towers over some of the older, moss-covered grave markers on the far edge of the prison cemetery just past the razor-wire fence that rings Limestone, a maximum-security facility in rural Northeast Alabama.

Every year, somewhere around 100 inmates - in fiscal year 2010, the toll was 77, in fiscal 2015 it was 124, according to the DOC - die inside Alabama's state prisons, and every year some of them are buried in the cemeteries at the Draper, Fountain and Limestone correctional facilities. The green expanses memorialize the lives of hundreds of Alabamians who drew their final breaths while incarcerated.

Born in 1887, Will Jones was a veteran of World War I. Varrell Weeks was just 43 years and two days old when he died in 1995. Carrie B. Arrington made it to 72.

Billy Joe Bailey left behind a family that had a simple gray headstone made for him with an image of praying hands and the words "Loving Brother" engraved below his name. Reginald Bowers was just buried in July.

Their stories all began in different ways, but each of them ended up buried under several feet of dirt in one of the three state prison cemeteries currently in use in Alabama.

Bob Horton, a spokesman for the DOC, says there is no record of exactly how many bodies the department has buried since it was established in 1839. Christopher Gordy, the current Limestone warden, said at least 283 prisoners are buried in the facility's prison cemetery, which has room for between 600 and 700 burial plots.

"Some graves in the three cemeteries maintained today are marked, and some are not," Horton said via email. "Regardless of the inmate's crime, the ADOC handles all deaths and burials with professionalism and dignity."

Horton said theDOC also does not know how many prison cemeteries were operated in the correctional system's early days.

➤  Click here to read the full article

Source: AL.com, Connor Sheets, August 7, 2017

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