A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced a former Alabama Department of Corrections Officer to just more than seven years in prison after attempting to smuggle 497 grams of methamphetamine into the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer.
U.S. District Court Judge Karon O. Bowdre sentenced Gary Charles Dixon, Jr., 36, to 87 months in prison on one count of distribution of fifty grams or more of methamphetamine.
Dixon was arrested on Nov. 15, 2020, and pleaded guilty to the charge on July 20, according to court records.
“Smuggling contraband into our state prisons compromises the safety of everyone in the facility,” said U.S. Attorney Prim F. Escalona in a statement. “This type of conduct, especially by those sworn to protect the institution, will not be tolerated. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute corrections officers who violate positions of public trust.”
Numerous instances of incarcerated men dying in Alabama prisons over the summer appear to be possible drug overdoses. A least 10 men died in state prisons during the month of July.
The Alabama Department of Corrections in March 2020, halted regular visitations to Alabama prisons due to COVID-19, and the department hasn’t yet determined when those visitations will resume, yet drug overdoses and deaths connected to drugs have continued, as have the arrest of officers charged with bringing drugs into prisons.
Correctional officer Jeffery Jackson at Donaldson prison was arrested on Sept. 19 and charged with possession of marijuana, promoting prison contraband and unlawful possession of a controlled substance, according to Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office records. Jackson was released that dame day.
ADOC sergeant William Patrick was arrested on Sept. 4 and charged with possession of marijuana, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, promoting prison contraband and use of official office for personal gain, according to Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office records. Patrick was released that same day.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s ongoing lawsuit against the state alleges Alabama fails to protect prisoners from violence, death, unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and if the state fails to adequately respond to the federal government’s concerns, the suit could result in court-ordered federal oversight of Alabama’s prison system.
The DOJ’s complaint also states that ADOC hasn’t been able to control contraband, which is resulting in mounting overdose deaths, despite no visits by outsiders being allowed in prisons amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Although ADOC has not allowed visitors into Alabama’s Prisons for Men since March 2020 pursuant to COVID-19 restrictions, prisoners continue to have easy access to drugs and other illegal contraband,” the complaint reads.