For the last few years, the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) has been in the news for concerning reasons. In 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) accused ADOC of running the most dangerous prison system in the country and sued the state, claiming that a sentence to an Alabama prison constitutes a “cruel and unusual punishment” and is thus an unconstitutional violation of the Eighth Amendment. The DOJ even filed an updated complaint in their ongoing lawsuit against Alabama over prison conditions arguing that violence remains unabated in facilities that are both overcrowded and “dangerously” understaffed.
“In the two and a half years following the United States’ original notification to the State of Alabama of unconstitutional conditions of confinement, prisoners at Alabama’s Prisons for Men have continued daily to endure a high risk of death, physical violence, and sexual abuse at the hands of other prisoners,” the Justice Department wrote in the complaint signed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Alabama prisons reported eight deaths last week, reported the Montgomery Advisor.
In September, Alabama prisons were filled to 164.9% of their designed capacity.
In a recent Alabama Today report, former corrections officer Stacy George explained just how bad conditions are in Alabama prisons. In fact, he’s written a book about it. George is just the latest ADOC officer who, overwhelmed by the hours, personal risks, and conditions of the state’s prisons, has left government service.
George is a former Morgan County Commissioner and has twice run for the Republican nomination for Governor of Alabama (2014 and 2022). George said that the prisons are so understaffed that he fears that the inmates could potentially take control of one or more of the overcrowded facilities.
“At any time, they can take a prison,” George warned. “It is a danger to the officers, the people that work there. The public is in danger.”
2022 has been an especially deadly year in Alabama prisons. Through September, 179 people died in the state’s prisons. That exceeds the year-end total for every year on record except one for 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic spread through prisons. July 2022 was the deadliest month on record in Alabama prisons.
Here is a list of the men who died last week:
Justin Wade Hopkins, 39, died on November 22 in Elmore Correctional Facility. Hopkins was discovered unresponsive in his dorm. He was transferred to the prison infirmary, where he was pronounced dead, ADOC said.
Willie A. McCall, 67, died November 23 in St. Clair Correctional Facility. Discovered unresponsive on the dorm floor in St. Clair, McCall was taken to the infirmary, where he was pronounced dead.
Cameron Holifield, 22, died on November 24 in Staton Correctional Facility. Found unresponsive in his dorm, he was taken to the prison infirmary, where he was pronounced dead.
Grady Anthony Lee, 44, died the same day in Bibb Correctional Facility. Found unresponsive in his dorm, he was taken to the health care unit, where he was pronounced dead.
Barry Christopher Culver, 25, died on November 25 in St. Clair Correctional Facility. He was found unresponsive on his bed, where he was assessed by medical personnel and pronounced dead.
Jason P. Hopkins, 36, died on November 25 in Elmore Correctional Facility. He was taken to the health care unit after he was found unresponsive on his bed. Medical staff responded, but he was pronounced dead.
Jimmy R. Hurst, 89, also died on November 25 at Limestone Correctional Facility. Hurst reported to the infirmary with “certain symptoms” before he “became unresponsive.” He died there.
Joseph Edward Nichols, 46, died on November 27 in Ventress Correctional Facility. He was found unresponsive in his dorm and taken to the prison infirmary, where he was pronounced dead.
U.S. Judge Myron Thompson has ordered ADOC to hire 2,000 more guards – a mission that the troubled system has failed to do despite three years of trying.