Alabama prisons reported eight deaths last week.
The Alabama Department of Corrections said its Law Enforcement Services Division is investigating each of the death, with final causes pending those investigations. In the meantime, ADOC did not share any meaningful details about the deaths. Each person was “found unresponsive,” but ADOC didn’t explain what circumstances may have contributed to that state. The most information shared is that one incarcerated man showed up to the prison infirmary with “certain symptoms.”
Families report going months without receiving any real information about how their loved ones died in prison. They are left to guess what happened on that last day.
The Montgomery Advertiser has been unable to reach family members of those who died in Alabama’s custody last week. If you know one of the decedents, please contact this Advertiser reporter to help in our reporting.
The deaths are the most recent in a deadly year in Alabama prisons. Through September, the most recent month for which data is available, 179 people died in the state’s prisons. That already exceeds the year-end total for every year on record except one: 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic spread through prison facilities. July 2022 was the deadliest month on record in Alabama prisons.
The problems of violence, death, sexual abuse, and drug use — so persistent that they're considered unconstitutional, the U.S. Department of Justice says — are made worse by unabated overcrowding and understaffing at the prisons. In September, Alabama prisons were filled to 164.9% of their designed capacity. Nearly every prison is significantly understaffed, despite attempts to attract new prison employees.
The DOJ sued Alabama in 2020 over the conditions of its prisons, but the state has failed to make changes with tangible positive results to most facilities.
Eight dead in six days
Justin Wade Hopkins died on Nov. 22 in Elmore Correctional Facility. After Hopkins was discovered unresponsive in his dorm, medical staff responded. He was transferred to the prison infirmary where he was pronounced dead, ADOC said.
Hopkins, 39, was from Attalla, Alabama.
Willie A. McCall died one day later 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.
McCall, 67, was from Mobile.
Cameron Holifield died on Nov. 24 in Staton Correctional Facility. Found unresponsive in his dorm, he was taken to the prison infirmary where he was pronounced dead.
Holifield, 22, was from Mobile.
Grady Anthony Lee 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.
Lee, 44, was from Andalusia.
Three men died on Nov. 25. Barry Christopher Culver died in St. Clair Correctional Facility. He was found unresponsive on his bed, where he was assessed by medical personnel and pronounced dead.
Culver, 25, was from Kinsey, Alabama.
Jason P. Hopkins died on Nov. 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.
Hopkins, 36, was from Pinson.
Jimmy R. Hurst also died on Nov. 25 at Limestone Correctional Facility. Hurst reported to the infirmary with “certain symptoms” before he “became unresponsive.” He died there.
Hurst was 89 years old.
Joseph Edward Nichols died on Nov. 27 in Ventress Correctional Facility. He was found unresponsive in his dorm and taken to the prison infirmary, where he was pronounced dead.
Nichols, 46, was from Greenville, Alabama.
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This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Alabama prisons report eight deaths in six days, don't ask why