By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
A new report from the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice shows that Black men are more than 3.3 times likely to be murdered in Alabama’s prisons than their white peers.
The report examines six years of data and explains that 37 of the 48 men killed by homicide while in custody of the Alabama Department of Corrections between 2014 and 2020 were Black.
This year is on track to be the deadliest on record, with homicide rates outpacing 2019 and dozens of additional inmates dying from suicide and COVID-19, the report says.
“The fact that nothing has changed in that time — and that people continue to die as a result — is a scandal,” Alabama Appleseed Executive Director Carla Crowder said in a press release.
“In the last six months, we have seen a tidal wave of righteous fury rise against police for routinely killing Black people across America,” Crowder continued. “The ADOC is the largest law enforcement agency in the state of Alabama, and it has overseen the violent deaths of dozens of Black Alabamians in their custody over the past few years alone. We believe it is important to remind Alabamians that this is not normal. Our system is failing. None of these victims was sentenced to death and their deaths in ADOC custody represent an indefensible, disqualifying failure on the part of ADOC senior staff.”
Samantha Rose, the ADOC’s press secretary, told ADN in an emailed statement on Friday that the ADOC disagrees with the report’s findings.
“First and foremost, violence of any kind, against anyone, is unacceptable,” Rose said. “This is a matter we take very seriously, and to imply that our Department is complicit in allowing violent incidents to occur is simply inaccurate.”
Appleseed also documented a total of 89 preventable deaths from homicide, suicide or drug overdose during the years 2014 to 2020, but the ADOC disputes this claim as well.
“The Department works tirelessly to prevent deaths of inmates in our custody, however, death is an unfortunate reality, which you see in prison systems across the country,” Rose said. “Alabama Appleseed also appears to attempt to draw a racial undertone with the data it chose to use in its report, which we firmly disagree with. All inmates are treated equally, and the Department will continue to do everything in our power to provide for the safe and secure confinement of our inmate population.”
The Appleseed report comes as another inmate homicide was reported last week, according to the Associated Press. Inmate Dwight Campbell was killed by what authorities said was an assault by another inmate. Campbell was a Black man serving a 20-year sentence for receiving stolen property.
Prison system statistics show at least 16 inmates were killed by other prisoners in Alabama prisons from Oct. 1, 2019 through the end of August, the Associated Press reported. The number does not include deaths still under investigation.
The ADOC is facing numerous lawsuits and has been declared by the United States Department of Justice as having deplorable conditions and violating inmates’ eighth amendment constitutional rights.
Plans are currently underway for private companies to build three men’s prisons which would then be leased back to the state and be run by the ADOC. Construction is estimated to begin early next year.
The report also says that Alabama prisoners are ten times more likely to be a victim of homicide than anyone else in the state. In 2019, Alabama prisons had a homicide rate of 73 people per 100,000; the overall murder rate in Alabama is 7.8 people per 100,000.
Elmore Correctional Facility is shown to have the highest percentage of homicides in ADOC’s facility at 23.9% and St. Clair Correctional Facility is the second highest at 17.4%, the report says.
The homicides have not only been a result of inmate-on-inmate violence but a report from the DOJ in July of this year detailed how ADOC staff used unconstitutional use of excessive force on inmates and ADOC employees often fail to properly document, investigate or address these uses of force.
Appleseed’s report is also critical of how ADOC has handled the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities, noting the system’s overcrowded facilities, its inability to properly social distance inmates or keep adequality maintained quarantine facilities.
ADOC also disputes this claim.
“Finally, to imply that the ADOC is complicit in exposing inmates to COVID-19 is, once again, simply inaccurate,” Rose said. “Our regularly published External Updates detail the numerous preventative measures put in place to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 in our facilities.”
So far 751 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 and 31 inmates have died from the virus as of Friday, according to ADOC’s COVID-19 dashboard.
You can read the full report from Appleseed HERE.