State lawmakers are criticizing the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) for its decision to change reporting criteria on inmate deaths.
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.
State Rep. Matt Simpson (R-Daphne) reacted to the story on Twitter, calling on fellow State Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa) to "make some noise" on the issue.
England also responded, criticizing ADOC's decision and suggesting legislative action may be necessary to "force them to do better."
Considering how bad things are going in ADOC, now is certainly not the time to be less transparent.— Chris England (@RepEngland70) January 4, 2023
If ADOC insists on doing the bare minimum here, then maybe we need to change the law to force them to do better. Fortunately, Session starts in March. https://t.co/GHtbjmhVoF
Simpson told 1819 News that, although he and England are separated by party affiliation, they agree on the issues pervading ADOC in recent years.
"Chris and I are very like-minded on the poor operations of the Department of Corrections, and we've had many speeches on the floor and had many conversations about how terrible they do things," Simpson said.
Since John Hamm took over as commissioner of ADOC in January 2022, there have been several prison officials arrested for bribery, promoting prison contraband and other ethics violations, which Simpson believes is a promising sign. However, Simpson said there is still work to be done in ADOC, and this most recent decision is a step backward.
"I'm disappointed with the decision not to notify the public on the deaths that occur," Simpson continued. "Just the way things are being done right now, it's questionable.
"I believe sunshine is the best disinfectant. Let people see. Let people know. Let people be aware of what's going on. And waiting until you have three or four months of data instead of just telling people at the time; I just don't see that being productive."
Simpson said addressing the ADOC's "poor decisions" will be on the docket in the upcoming legislative session.
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