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Man incarcerated at Staton prison dies after being found unresponsive

David Hicks’s death follows numerous others in what is becoming one of the deadliest years in the state’s history for the incarcerated.

Staton Correctional Facility and Draper Correctional Facility near Elmore, Alabama. GOOGLE EARTH

A man serving at Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore died last week, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed for APR.

David Hicks, 35, was found unresponsive by prison staff on Oct. 12 and was taken to the prison’s infirmary, where he was pronounced dead, ADOC spokeswoman Kristi Simpson confirmed for APR in a message.

“The ADOC’s Law Enforcement Services Division (LESD) is investigating the circumstances surrounding Hicks’ death. His exact cause of death is pending the completion of the investigation,” Simpson wrote.

Hicks’s death may be the latest in a string of deaths in Alabama’s prisons for men. Kenneth Gilchrist died Oct. 11 after an apparent attack by another prisoner at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility.

Travis Hutchins, 34, died Oct. 7 after being attacked by another incarcerated man with a weapon at Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent.

Hutchins in 2016 sued the warden, assistant warden and several correctional officers at Easterling Correctional Facility in civil court for what he said was the prison’s inability to protect him before and after being stabbed by another prisoner on March 6, 2016, according to federal court records.

ADOC in court filings said the department wasn’t aware Hutchins was in danger. A U.S. district judge dismissed the lawsuit in May 2019.

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The U.S. Department of Justice in the federal government’s lawsuit alleged unconstitutional treatment of incarcerated men, including a lack of basic health care and mental health care in understaffed and deadly facilities, and the inability to protect the incarcerated from sexual, physical violence and death. 

In previously released reports, the Justice Department detailed systemic problems in Alabama’s prison for men of abuse from guards, corruption and cover-ups, rampant drug use, violence, overcrowding, contraband often brought in by correctional officers.

Drugs, cell phones and other contraband items are often sold and traded in prisons, and often become the catalyst for assaults and homicides when debts are accrued. Despite the Alabama Department of Corrections having discontinued visitations in prisons since March 2020, contraband has continued making its way into prisons.

Numerous deaths this summer appear to have been drug overdoses, based on statements from ADOC and from talking with incarcerated men with knowledge of those deaths. At least 10 men died in Alabama prisons during July alone.

At least four officers have been arrested in recent weeks on charges connected to assaults, contraband, drug possession and interfering with an investigation.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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