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Man becomes at least 15th preventable death in Alabama prisons this year

Marcus Terrell Grubbs died after he was attacked by another incarcerated man at Kilby Correctional, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday.

Kilby Correctional Facility

A 39-year-old man serving in an Alabama prison on Wednesday became the latest killed inside the state’s deadly overcrowded, understaffed prisons. 

Marcus Terrell Grubbs died after he was attacked by another incarcerated man at Kilby Correctional, an ADOC spokesperson confirmed for APR on Thursday. 

At least 15 incarcerated people have died in Alabama prisons this year,  six of those being homicides, nine possible drug overdose deaths and one undetermined death with blunt force trauma injuries. By this time last year, at least 11 deaths occurred in the state’s prisons, according to tracking of those deaths by Beth Shelburne, an investigative reporter with the ACLU of Alabama. There were 43 preventable deaths – overdoses, homicides and suicides – in Alabama prisons in 2021. 

APR received a tip about Grubs’s 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 U.S. Department of Justice in May 2021 filed an amended complaint in a December 2020 lawsuit against the state of Alabama and the Alabama Department of Corrections, which alleged violations of inmates’ constitutional rights to protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence, sexual abuse and excessive force by prison guards.

The state’s prisons have for decades been understaffed, with the federal government in the suit says is resulting in increased violence and death. 

Kilby prison was at 268 percent capacity in March, the last month for which the Alabama Department of Corrections has posted a monthly report. The prison was built to house 440 prisoners but had 1,187 in March, according to the report. 

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Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan to build at least two new prisons for men continues moving forward, but the new facilities won’t solve the state’s prison overcrowding problem because the new prisons add additional bed space. Plans call for closing some of the existing, dilapidated prisons. 

The state Legislature in October 2021, approved a $1.3 billion prison construction package which includes plans for two new 4,000-bed prisons for men, to be located in Escambia and Elmore counties. The Legislature also approved transferring $154 million from the General Fund for the new prisons, and the use of $400 million in federal COVID aid to help pay for the new prisons, a controversial move that opponents have said was a misuse of those funds. 

Attempts by some Alabama lawmakers to pass more impactful, large-scale criminal justice reform bills in the last legislative session, which they said would address the deadly crisis, mostly failed, although a handful of reform bills passed.

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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