“I’ve seen people go crazy,” Barfield said regarding his stay in isolation, adding, “I’ve heard people go crazy. Just out of the blue a person will flip and act out all kind of different ways, saying they’re going to kill themelves.”
Barfield was sent to prison in 1988. He was 13 years old when he was accused by a relative of molesting her 3-year old daughter, according to the article.
Per Georgia penal code, “a person convicted of their first offense of child molestation shall be punished by imprisonment for ‘not less than five years, nor more than 20 years.’”
“Me being illiterate and dumb, I said I’d take that,” Barfield said of the five year plea bargain he accepted. Adding, “My family didn’t know anything about the law at the time so we listened to the lawyer.”
He adamantly denies the allegations and said, “It was my word against hers.”
Instead of being tried in a juvenile court, Barfield was tried as an adult, a decision that may have been made based on his other petty crimes. “I used to steal my parent’s car,” said Barfield. “I was probably doing it to get attention.” Barfield told the Journal-Constitution.
When he turned 17, he was transferred from the juvenile facility he was housed to an adult facility. He then found himself housed at Alto Prison, where most of the prisoners were under 25 years of age.
“It’s just an awful place,” said Sara Geraghty, attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, Ga. “The sexual violence that occurred there was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Rapes were happening on a daily basis.”
“A lot of times I’d get so mad that I was there because I knew I was innocent,” Barfield said on his stay at Alto prison. “That built a lot of anger in me. As I got older I tried to develop myself as a man, to get ready for my family, to not be the angry person I was in prison. Mentally it was real rough.”
While struggling to find peace of mind, Barfield, a White boy from South Georgia, found solace in Islam. The religion gave Barfield the peace he sought, accord- ing to the article.
“That helped me a lot with my anger and my temper, ‘cause I calmed down and became a man,” Barfield said of his conversion to Islam.
This new peace and religion created problems that led to him being placed in solitary.
“The officer said ‘I don’t know why you White boys are always taking the fall for the Muslims,’” recalled Barfield.
This statement led to an altercation in which Barfield was sent to “the hole” (Administrative Segregation)
and was then transferred to Jackson special management unit E-wing. In this unit inmates are allowed outside of their cell for one hour per day. Inmates are not given any personal effects. They only receive sheets, blankets and hygiene items, like a toothbrush. There’s no library access, TV, or radio for personal entertainment, according to the article.
Barfield’s faith is what kept him strong during his nine-year stay in this form of isolation.
“There’s no way, based on his infraction, that Daniel should’ve been there for nine years,” said Geraghty, who was part of a team that sued the Georgia Department of Corrections over conditions inside the solitary unit.
Barfield’s situation is not a singular instance. More that 20 percent of the inmates placed in solitary have been retained in the special management unit for more than six years. However, as a result of the lawsuit filed by the Southern Center for Human Rights, the department has reduced its restrictive housing by 40 percent, according to the article.
Now released at 33 years of age, Barfield’s transition back to society has proven difficult. Finding employment as a known sex offender has been difficult.
“Being around people is the biggest adjustment,” he said, adding, “I just have to learn to deal with it. It might take me awhile, but I’ll get used to it.”
Barfield has found a girl-friend via Facebook, and they have hopes of one day getting married.