Governor Kay Ivey has yet to address the chaos in the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC).
Last week, the ADOC released more than 100 violent inmates after a 2021 law took effect. The release drew heat from critics such as Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who filed a lawsuit against the ADOC claiming it failed to complete the required victim notification despite having over a year to do so. Marshall's lawsuit delayed the release of most inmates eligible under the law.
However, trouble isn't anything new for the Alabama prison system.
Alabama has some of the deadliest prisons in the country. According to U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) figures, Alabama is in the top five among states both for homicides per 100,000 inmates and deaths for 100,000 inmates. As of November, the total estimated prison deaths sits at 222, the highest rate in decades.
Several prison officials were charged with bringing in contraband and accepting bribes in 2022. Other ADOC employees were charged with assaulting inmates, including one officer who was accused of beating an inmate on the roof of a prison chapel, and a warden at Limestone Correctional Facility was accused last April of not protecting an inmate who was eventually attacked inside his cell and refusing to communicate with the family of another inmate who was experiencing fatal health issues.
ADOC Commissioner John Hamm indicated in August that the ADOC was struggling to hire security officers, drug treatment counselors, stewards, and administrative staff.
Drugs are also an issue in Alabama prisons. According to a 2019 DOJ report, the ADOC demonstrated an "inability to control the flow of contraband into and within the prisons." The ADOC does not report overdoses and even canceled monthly reports on inmate deaths late last year.
In 2020, the DOJ filed a lawsuit against the state of Alabama concerning poor prison sanitation, violence between inmates and excessive force from staff, and sexual assault.
The lawsuit resulted from a multi-year investigation conducted by the DOJ Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Offices for the Northern, Middle and Southern districts of Alabama.
In 2022, Ivey signed legislation authorizing the ADOC to build two new 4,000-bed mega prisons to address the issues. Though the plan faced political and economic obstacles, it secured a $509 million bond deal last year.
Earlier this month, some lawmakers told 1819 News they would've voted "no" on the prison deal if they knew what they knew now. State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Josephine) criticized Ivey's administration for lack of progress on the new facilities.
The state has also been struggling with issues surrounding its execution process. The ADOC called off the execution of convicted murderer Kenneth Eugene Smith in November after ADOC officials failed to establish an IV line to administer a lethal injection. Smith's was the second failed execution last year.
Ivey's office asked Marshall to stop seeking further executions until Hamm reviewed the execution process, causing the media to speculate that there was a "moratorium" on capital punishment in the state. However, Marshall said in December that this was false.
Since the prison release issues started last week, Ivey appears to have been silent.
1819 News reached out to Ivey's office for comment but has received no response.
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