Comparing Alabama Prisons to Death Camps: A Disturbing Discussion

In 2022, Alabama’s prisons witnessed a record-breaking total of 270 deaths, the highest number ever reported in a single year. Among these fatalities, 19 were determined to be homicides. Utilizing platforms like TikTok, incarcerated individuals, their loved ones, and prison advocates have been raising awareness about the appalling conditions prevalent within the state’s correctional facilities. Interestingly, while the Department of Justice is making unprecedented efforts to take legal action against Alabama, the voices amplifying the urgent need for change continue to grow stronger.

Alabama’s prisons have long been facing a crisis characterized by various issues such as understaffing, overcrowding, violence, drug abuse, and inadequate provision of medical and mental health care as well as basic needs. However, the dire state of the prison system has gained even more attention recently as inmates take to social media, using hashtags like #prisontoks and #alabama, to document and raise awareness about the chaotic conditions they endure.

“His face is entirely swollen, over a week now and he still hasn’t received treatment. Colostomy patients should get 60 bags a month. William only gets 10 a month,” Jemison said. “Alabama healthcare towards prisoners is a joke. In Alabama, people are dying because steps that could be taken – that would cost a little money – are not being taken simply because we are incarcerated people.”

Alabama’s prison system has gained notoriety for its high incarceration rates, ranking as the sixth-highest among US states and one of the highest in the world. The system currently operates at 168% capacity, far exceeding its intended capacity of 11,000. The overcrowded and dangerous conditions prompted the US Department of Justice to file a lawsuit against Alabama in 2020. Despite the Trump administration’s historically limited support for prisoners’ rights, the lawsuit was accepted by former US Attorney General William Barr after failed attempts at negotiation and intervention.

In an attempt to address the issue, Alabama has committed nearly $1 billion to the construction of a new prison near Montgomery. Additionally, they have allocated an additional $600 million for the development of a second mega-prison by 2026. However, the Department of Justice expressed its concerns regarding these plans in a 2019 letter, emphasizing that simply building more facilities will not adequately resolve Alabama’s prison crisis. Another contributing factor to the crisis is the lack of sufficient staff to manage the system effectively.

Despite the state’s efforts to alleviate the overcrowding and improve conditions, the underlying issues surrounding Alabama’s prison system require comprehensive and thoughtful solutions.


The Alabama Department of Corrections has reported a staggering vacancy rate of 64% in security staffing. Over the past year, the state has witnessed numerous cases of bribery, corruption, and misconduct among its correctional officers. As an alarming statistic, Jemison highlighted that his facility, which houses approximately 1,200 inmates, is currently being managed by a mere three officers at any given time.

“It’s not safe and it’s dangerous for the officers,” said Jemison. “The shortage of staff, no security, overcrowding, this lack of medical care, lack of mental health care … basically turn the mental health crisis into criminal convictions so the majority in here are people with drug addictions and people with mental health issues that shouldn’t be here.”

In 2013, the closure of the majority of mental health hospitals in Alabama resulted in a surge of mentally ill individuals being incarcerated. This decision has attracted criticism towards the state for its high rate of parole refusals and its inclination towards imposing harsh punishments, ultimately leading to prison overcrowding.

According to their website, ADOC claims to have a mission that inmates would support. However, this assertion is misleading, and it is not the only falsehood found on their page. The organization also purports to uphold values such as professionalism, integrity, and accountability. However, based on the experiences shared by inmates and their families, it seems that these claims are far from accurate.

“Summertime, that’s when things get the worst because of the heat and a lot of the time they don’t have any water to drink. They don’t have ice, they don’t have anything,” said Rhonda Averhart, an advocate for prisoners in Alabama, referring to the lack of air conditioning and fans that contributes to a lack of safety and violence within the overcrowded prisons in excessive heat. If they started granting paroles and clearing the prisons, things might get a little better. These guys are overcrowded and it’s hard on them.”

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