Two deaths this week inside Alabama prisons bring the month’s total to at least 10, and while investigations are ongoing, many of these deaths appear to be possible drug overdoses.
John Wilson, 27, was found unresponsive by prison staff at St. Clair Correctional Facility on July 19, Alabama Department of Corrections spokeswoman Kristi Simpson confirmed to APR on Wednesday. His death is pending an investigation, and no foul play is suspected, she said.
Mitchell Glenn, 57, on July 20 was found unresponsive by prison staff at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer. Foul play is also not suspected in his death, and the cause is still being investigated, she said.
Charles Hall, 34, was found unresponsive by prison staff at Bullock Correctional Facility on July 14 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 July 12 following injuries after an apparent assault from another incarcerated person at Fountain Correctional Facility, Simpson said in a message to APR on Wednesday.
Four additional deaths at Bibb Correctional Facility since July 4 appear to be possible drug overdoses, according to statements from a man serving there and because ADOC said foul play isn’t suspected in those deaths either.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s ongoing lawsuit against the state alleges Alabama 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.