Thursday, Alabamians for Fair Justice released a statement critical of Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn’s tenure in charge of the state’s prisons.
“Under Commissioner Dunn’s leadership, Alabama’s prison system is in a constitutional crisis,” the activist group claimed. “There have been at least 20 verified deaths due to homicide, suicide or overdose in the Alabama prison system in 2019. In April, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a scathing letter outlining the Eighth Amendment violations the system faces because of the level of violence, sexual abuse, and the basic failure to ensure people in prison system are safe. According to public data, ADOC’s prisons have only 38% of the needed correctional staff and are overcrowded at 169% capacity. ADOC’s problems stem from the understaffing and overcrowding, but Commissioner Dunn’s and the State of Alabama’s only proposed solutions thus far have been to build three new mega- prisons, and keep people locked up for decades. Alabama must do better. We grieve for the lives we lost in ADOC’s care this year.”
According to Alabamians for Fair Justice there have been twenty Alabama prisoners either murdered or who have committed suicide or who have overdosed. The prisoners are not supposed to have access to narcotics, but drugs are frequently smuggled in.
The following is a list of the prisoners who have died by murder, overdose, or by their own hand this year. The Alabama prison facility they were inmates in are in parenthesis.
In January 2019, Roderick Abrams (in St. Clair prison), John David Teague (at Staton), and Paul Ford (Kilby) died.
In February, Matt Holmes (Limestone) and Daniel Gentry (Donaldson) died.
In March, Steven Mullins (St. Clair), Quinton Ashaad Few (Bibb), Rashaud Dederic Morrissette (Fountain), and Ray Anthony Little (Bibb) died.
In June, Joseph Holloway (Fountain) and Jeremy Reshad Bailey (Fountain) died.
In September, Christopher Hurst (Fountain), Marco Tolbert (Donaldson) and William Spratling (Donaldson) died.
October was an especially brutal month. Marcus Green (Bullock), Steven Davis (Donaldson), Elvin Burnseed (Donaldson), William Warren (Ventress), Ricky Gilland (Holman SEG), and Robert Green (Elmore).
Alabama has a shortage of prison space. The 27 ADOC prisons that we do have are aging rapidly due to decades of use and neglect of proper maintenance and repairs. Most of the Alabama prison population are there for violent crimes, including murder, rape, robbery, and assault and/or are repeat offenders. Most of them do not have a high school diploma. In most cases they have a mental health issue and/or a drug dependency issue. The recidivism rate of those that are released is very high. Dunn and Governor Kay Ivey hope that building the three new mega prisons will allow the state to retire many of the state’s worst facilities and better offer the inmates services. The Justice Department claims that the Alabama prison system is the most dangerous in the country and has demanded that the state address the chronic understaffing and lack of mental healthcare services.
Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn being was named the recipient of the 2019 Michael Francke Career Achievement Award presented by the Correctional Leaders Association (CLA).