No room in Ala. prisons, murder suspects often await trial outside of jail

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — To the family of Jonathan and Jeremi Berry, their murders mark a failure of the Alabama Justice System.

“If they had not let him out,” Alicia Thomas says, “My nephews would be here today.”

Alicia Thomas blames state authorities for giving suspect Stanley Chatman the opportunity to kill again. When Chatman allegedly murdered Alicia’s nephews, he was out of jail awaiting trial for  another murder.

Prison officials say they need more space. More space means more money — money the state of Alabama is not allocating to the prison system.

“This is a real problem,” Alabama Senator Cam Ward says. “And one that is not going to be resolved anytime soon until we start looking around making sure that murderers and violent offenders stay in there longer. And if we don’t have the facilities, situations like this are going to continue to happen which is a real tragedy.”

Senator Ward says we need new prisons in the state, which are not cheap. If the state constructed a new $120 million dollar prison, Ward says it would be full immediately.

“A guard could lose his life because he doesn’t have enough backup or resources for him to maintain a safe environment,” Ward says. “People have got to realize how dangerous a situation this is.”

He says for many people, the prison system is out of sight and out of mind. That’s not the case for Alicia Thomas and friends of the Berry twins.

“I don’t care about overcrowding,” Thomas says. “People who do violent things should not be out.”

She says her nephews should still be alive today.

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