The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) is revising its reporting measures, removing the current monthly reports on inmate deaths and switching to quarterly reports, which are already six months behind.
Currently, ADOC is required to report the number of deaths in a monthly report that is made publicly available.
In its October report, which is the first month of the 2023 fiscal year, ADOC noted that it would no longer be reporting inmate deaths in its monthly report. Instead, it will include a list of all inmate deaths, by month, in its quarterly report, which is presented to the Joint Legislative Prison Oversight Committee.
The last quarterly report published by ADOC on its website covered April through June 2022 — two quarters behind the current date.
ADOC is under the microscope for the high level of violence and death in Alabama prisons, with a lingering lawsuit from the Department of Justice (DoJ) and a state investigation into its lethal injection protocol.
Alabama has some of the highest prison death rates in the nation, tying Maine for third place in homicides per 100,000 inmates but falling behind Oklahoma and South Carolina, according to DOJ figures. In overall deaths per 100,000, Alabama is in fourth place behind Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana.
In 2020, the DoJ filed a lawsuit against the state of Alabama concerning poor prison sanitation, violence between inmates, excessive force from staff and sexual assault.
Since the DOJ began its investigation in 2016, at least 80 prisoners have been killed.
ADOC has not released official numbers for 2022, but the total estimated number of prison deaths as of November sits at 222, already the highest annual rate in decades.
At least 18 deaths were due to homicide, four to suicide, and 23 were suspected fatal drug overdoses.
Overdoses are difficult to quantify since ADOC doesn't report overdoses in its now-abolished monthly reports.
Drugs have been described as a pandemic in Alabama prisons. In a 2019 report, the DOJ claimed that ADOC had demonstrated an "inability to control the flow of contraband into and within the prisons, including illegal drugs and weapons."
In 2022, several prison officials were charged with promoting prison contraband, accepting bribes and other ethics charges.
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