It is not as if we needed any more proof to show that there is a complete lack of institutional control within Alabama's prisons by the Department of Corrections (ADOC).
However, recent reports revealed that the remains of deceased inmates have been returned to their families with missing organs, underscoring a dire situation.
Earlier this month, Birmingham ABC 33/40's Cynthia Gould reported on former inmate Brandon Dotson, who died last year at Barbour County's Ventress Correctional Facility while serving time for burglary.
According to Gould, Dotson's family had suspicions about his death and wanted a private autopsy. However, after the autopsy with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, the family's pathologist said Dotson's heart was missing from what was described as a "badly decomposed" body.
Dotson's family has since sued in federal court. However, after a hearing last week in U.S. Judge Madeline Haikala's courtroom in Birmingham, Dotson's family is no closer to determining the whereabouts of the missing organ.
Dotson's case also was not the first time a family had confronted ADOC about missing organs from an inmate who died in custody.
The late Charles Edward Singleton, who died in ADOC custody in November 2021, was returned to his family with several missing organs.
"He still had his eyes," Singleton's daughter Charlene Drake wrote in a letter obtained by People magazine. "But all other organs were gone."
During an appearance on Newsnation's "Banfield" on Friday, Jacksonville State University forensics professor Joseph Scott Morgan argued regardless of the circumstances, when in custody, the state is responsible for the deceased's mortal remains.
"Horrible stuff — I was shocked when you guys reached out to me," Morgan said. "I had not been following these cases. And I will tell you this: Most people that die in custody — it is a requirement, and it's generally understood industry practice that once someone dies in custody, and this can even mean someone that is, say, on a hospital unit in a prison, that body must be examined because I don't care if they're in a hospital unit at the prison or in the back seat of a patrol car."
"That is an in-custody death," he continued. "That means that the state is responsible for their mortal remains, and these autopsies, Ash, are very, very thorough. I've been involved in them over the years. And so the fact that these bodies were handled in the manner in which they're handled in both cases. There was significant decomposition is quite shocking, even by my standards."
This episode is the latest in a years-long saga of an embattled ADOC looking at a possible takeover by the federal government.
Despite changes within the leadership of the Alabama Department of Corrections, including new commissioner John Hamm, who took office in January 2022, replacing Jeff Dunn, the agency continues to be plagued with problems with little to no public mention from Gov. Kay Ivey and leadership in Alabama Legislature.
Jeff Poor is the editor in chief of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
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