What would be a sufficient punishment for that crime?
Many people would say justice could only be served if Richards was put to death.
I personally do not agree with the death penalty, so I would say life in prison without the possibility of parole would be an appropriate punishment.
Richards worked out a deal and was able to get life in prison with possible parole. That’s still a pretty tough punishment — at least I thought it was a week ago.
That was before I heard of a place called the State Cattle Ranch.
The facility, which is about as minimum security as you can get, is located in Hale County, near Greensboro. It holds prisoners in a dormitory-style setting and has no fence.
IT HAS NO FENCE.
But this is where Richards, an confessed murderer, was housed by Alabama’s prison system.
Is it really a shock that he just wondered away from this facility during the early morning hours of Sunday?
From television footage and descriptions from people who have seen the State Cattle Ranch, the place is more like a plantation than a prison.
And murderers are being sent there?
When speaking to officials from the Alabama Department of Corrections this week while Richards was on the run, I questioned why a murderer could be housed in a place like this. The response to that question was always that Richards was in a classification to be eligible for the facility. He received that status because he was within three years of possible parole and, in 14 years, he had always been on his best behavior.
Classifications need to be changed.
How many other murderers, rapists and other violent offenders are being housed at a facility with no fence?
I’m all for work release and things of that nature, but violent offenders should not be eligible for these types of things.
This isn’t the first time the State Cattle Ranch has had a black eye. Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair said his father’s murderer was housed at the ranch. In 1994, a prisoner there killed Adair’s father’s murderer, another inmate, the warden of the facility and the warden’s wife and burned down the warden’s home with the victims inside. Investigators believe the warden’s wife was still alive as the home burned. A Tuscaloosa News report said the deaths resulted from the warden asking the inmate to pick pecans on a Saturday. According to the news story, the inmate thought he shouldn’t have to work that day.
How did our state prison system not learn from that incident?
Thankfully Richards was apprehended in Ohio on Wednesday and no one was injured or lost their life while he fled authorities. Adair said he hopes officials with the Alabama DOC will see the escape as a reason to make changes to the State Cattle Ranch.
How could they not?
Adair said many times this week that murderers shouldn’t be housed at the State Cattle Ranch. I agree, and it is time our state does something about the situation.
James Phillips is managing editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at 205-221-2840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.