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Man serving at Staton prison dies after attack with weapon

The death Monday is the latest in a string of prison deaths in Alabama, which is being sued by the federal government.

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

A man serving at the Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore died Monday after being assaulted by another prisoner with a weapon, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed to APR

Ricky Stewart, 47, died after an apparent inmate-on-inmate assault with a weapon, department spokeswoman Kristi Simpson said in a response to APR

APR received a tip about the death from another incarcerated person. The Alabama Department of Corrections doesn’t regularly release information on deaths inside state prisons 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.” 

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 earlier this month 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.” 

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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.

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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