Confirmation Friday of two more deaths inside Alabama prisons this week brings the month’s total to at least eight.
Charles Hall, 34, was found unresponsive by prison staff at Bullock Correctional Facility on Wednesday and died from an apparent suicide, ADOC spokeswoman Kristi Simpson confirmed to APR on Friday. His death was still under investigation.
That same day, DeVarrieo Shepherd, 33, was also found unresponsive in a segregation cell at Donaldson Correctional Facility. He was taken to the prison’s infirmary but was pronounced dead, Simpson said. His death is being investigated by ADOC’s Law Enforcement Services Division.
Tyrone Billups, 39, died Monday following injuries after an apparent assault from another incarcerated person at Fountain Correctional Facility, Simpson said in a message to APR on Wednesday.
Four deaths have occurred at Bibb Correctional Facility since July 4, and indications point to possible overdoses as the cause, although ADOC says all of those deaths remain under investigation and are awaiting full autopsy results.
On Tuesday 49-year-old Joseph Lawrence was found unresponsive by prison staff at Bibb Correctional Facility, Simpson confirmed to APR. He was taken to the infirmary, where he was pronounced dead. No foul play is suspected and his death is also being investigated, she said.
Lawrence’s death is at least the fourth death at Bibb prison since July 4, and in each, ADOC doesn’t suspect foul play.
John Gordon, 42, was found unresponsive by prison staff at Bibb prison on July 4. His cause of death is pending a full autopsy, and foul play is not suspected, Simpson said.
A man serving at Bibb prison told APR he believed Gordon overdosed on drugs. APR is not identifying the man to protect his safety.
Jason Matthew Kirkland, 27, was pronounced dead on July 5, at William Donaldson Correctional Facility, according to AL.com, which quoted Jefferson County Chief Deputy Coroner Bill Yates as saying there were no immediate signs of foul play.
Tyrone Triplett, 52, died at Bibb prison on July 6, and Kevin Rush, 40, died at Bibb on July 8. Foul play isn’t suspected in either of those deaths, and full autopsies are pending.
The rash of deaths comes as the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against the state is ongoing. The DOJ alleges the state fails to protect prisoners from violence, death, unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and if the state fails to adequately respond to the federal government’s concerns, the suit could result in court-ordered federal oversight of Alabama’s prison system.
The DOJ’s complaint also states that ADOC hasn’t been able to control contraband, which is resulting in mounting overdose deaths, despite no visits by outsiders being allowed in prisons amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Although ADOC has not allowed visitors into Alabama’s Prisons for Men since March 2020 pursuant to COVID-19 restrictions, prisoners continue to have easy access to drugs and other illegal contraband,” the complaint reads.