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Alabama Department of Corrections investigating possible prisoner suicide

Leon Latham, 47, was found unresponsive by prison staff. His death is the latest in a string of deaths inside Alabama prisons.

William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Jefferson County. Google Earth

A man serving at Donaldson Correctional Facility died Dec. 7 in his cell, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed on Friday. 

Leon Latham, 47, was found unresponsive by prison staff, ADOC spokeswoman Kristi Simpson wrote in a response to APR. Simpson said the department is investigating the death as an apparent suicide. 

ADOC doesn’t typically release information about the death of an incarcerated person unless a reporter learns of the death through other means and asks for confirmation. The department has a history of misclassifying deaths and failing to report some in the department’s statistical reporting. 

“ADOC’s statistical reports do not reflect all deaths from prisoner-on-prisoner homicides,” the U.S. Department of Justice wrote in a May amended complaint in the federal government’s lawsuit against Alabama over its prisons for men. “For example, in November 2020, a 48-year-old prisoner at Bullock was beaten and stabbed to death. Additionally, in February 2021, a 38-year-old prisoner at St. Clair was stabbed to death in an open dormitory. ADOC officials confirmed both deaths resulted from prisoner assaults in public news reporting, but they are not reflected in ADOC’s monthly statistical reports.” 

Asked why ADOC doesn’t regularly publish information on the deaths of incarcerated people as some states make a practice of, Simpson responded in a message that “the Department already is in the process of setting up an inmate death notification portal on our website.”

“We expect to complete this process and begin publishing recurring updates, as some other states do, in the near future,” Simpson said.

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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