Record 325 Deaths of Prisoners Show Alabama’s Prison Crisis

The Alabama Department of Corrections recorded at least 325 deaths in 2023, making it the highest number of reported deaths, as revealed by information obtained by Alabama Appleseed.

“In the weeks after we started tracking prison deaths starting January 1 of last year, we quickly realized we’d very likely see another record year of deaths, and we were correct,” Eddie Burkhalter, a researcher with Alabama Appleseed, said.

Burkhalter’s findings unveiled a significant surge in Alabama prison deaths since 2019, as exposed by a Department of Justice probe that declared the state’s prisons unconstitutional. This prompted a 2020 lawsuit from the DOJ against Alabama, with the trial set for November 2024. The disturbing trend of over 1,000 deaths in ADOC facilities underscores issues like rampant violence and drug use, often tied to correctional officers failing in their duty to maintain order.

The spotlight fell on the death of 22-year-old Daniel Williams, initially attributed to an overdose but later revealed to have injuries consistent with assault. Williams, a young father serving a one-year sentence for theft, became a focal point. ADOC hasn’t updated their investigation, but internal records point to a specific inmate, accused of sexual assault multiple times across prisons, as the primary suspect, allowed to freely interact despite never facing consequences.

ADOC grapples with staffing challenges, contributing to harsh conditions within facilities. The construction of new mega-prisons, years away and costing billions, leaves current conditions resembling those of third-world countries, as stated by a judge in Jefferson County. Reduced parole grants exacerbate overcrowding, with rising violence as inmates lose hope for a second chance.

In December, families testified before a legislative committee in Montgomery, recounting grim tales of brutal deaths and sexual assaults in prison. Kevin Hyatt shared his nephew’s murder over a small drug debt, and another spoke of Adam Bond, who suffered a traumatic brain injury and was later found dead after returning to the general prison population.

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