A 24-year-old man serving at Fountain Correctional Facility died Tuesday after being attacked by another inmate with a weapon, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed for APR.
ADOC’s Law Enforcement Services Division is investigating the death of Harold Wallace, ADOC spokeswoman Kristi Simpson wrote to APR in a response Wednesday.
Wallace’s death is at least the third in Alabama prisons in the last 19 days, although APR is working to confirm other possible deaths that may have occurred during that time.
Cody Brock, 30, died on Dec. 24 from injuries sustained during an inmate-on-inmate assault with a weapon, ADOC spokeswoman Kristi Simpson wrote in a response to APR.
Reeder Danley, 45, was found unresponsive by prison staff and was pronounced dead on Dec. 26, Simpson said.
ADOC doesn’t usually release information on the death of an incarcerated person unless a reporter learns of the death through other means and inquires. 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.”
In a response to APR’s questions in December as to 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.
Asked Wednesday for an update on the progress of regularly reporting those deaths, Simpson said “we will need to get back to you as soon as the new commissioner has had time to establish a reporting procedure.”
Former ADOC commissioner Jeff Dunn resigned and was replaced Jan. 1 by John Hamm, who was most recently deputy secretary of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency.
A Dec. 17 report authored by investigative reporter Beth Shelburne for ACLU of Alabama Smart Justice noted that 2021 was a record year for preventable deaths inside Alabama’s prisons, with at least 37 incarcerated people dying from violence, suicide or suspected drug-related causes by that time. Brock’s and Danley’s deaths bring that figure to 39. In 2020 there were 25 such deaths, 27 in 2019 and 22 in 2018, Shelburne reported, bringing the total number of deaths from violence and drugs in a four-year period to at least 111.
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 federal government’s lawsuit details numerous instances of deadly attacks with weapons, which are plentiful in Alabama prisons, the lawsuit notes.