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Nine incarcerated died at six correctional facilities last week

The deaths occurred between Tuesday and Sunday, with two incarcerated individuals dying on Thanksgiving.

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At least nine incarcerated men died at six different correctional facilities over the past week, according to a spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Corrections on Tuesday.

The total number of individuals confirmed dead by the ADOC is likely an undercount, according to multiple sources within the Alabama prison system, with the ages of the individuals confirmed deceased ranging from 22 to 87 years of age.

The deaths occurred between Tuesday and Sunday, with two incarcerated individuals dying on Thanksgiving and four the following Friday.

Each individual was discovered unresponsive within their respective facility, taken to a health care unit, and pronounced dead that same day, according to the ADOC spokesperson. No further information was provided as to the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

The names and approximate ages of the deceased, according to the ADOC and additional court documents obtained by APR, include:

Justin W. Hopkins, an incarcerated man at Elmore Correctional Facility, who was found unresponsive on Nov. 22 in his dorm by medical staff in the facility and later pronounced deceased in the infirmary unit after “life-saving procedures” failed. He was 39.

Willie A. McCall, an incarcerated man at St. Clair Correctional Facility, who was pronounced dead on Nov. 23 in the health care unit after being discovered unresponsive on the floor of his dorm at the facility. He was 67.

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Cameron Holifield, a 22-year-old incarcerated man of Staton Correctional Facility, and Grady Anthony Lee Jr, a 44-year-old incarcerated man of Bibb Correctional Facility, both died on Nov. 24, both having been found unresponsive and taken to the infirmary of their respective facilities, and pronounced dead soon thereafter.

Barry Christopher Culver, a 25-year-old incarcerated man at St. Clair Correctional Facility; Albert Jackson Sorrells, a 57-year-old incarcerated man at Ventress Correctional Facility; Jimmy R. Hurst, an 89-year-old incarcerated man at Limestone Correctional Facility; and Jason P. Hopkins, a 36-year-old at Elmore Correctional Facility, each died on Nov. 25.

With alarming rapidity, Culver, Sorrells, and Hopkins were each found unresponsive, taken to their facility’s health care unit where “life-saving measures” were performed by medical staff, and later pronounced deceased, according to the ADOC spokesperson.

Hurst had reached the health care unit at Limestone Correctional Facility “with certain symptoms,” after which point he “became unresponsive,” according to the ADOC spokesperson. All life-saving measures and procedures failed to revive Hurst, who was pronounced deceased that Friday.

Joseph Edward Nichols, an incarcerated man at Ventress Correctional Facility, was pronounced dead on Nov. 27 after being discovered unresponsive in his dorm at the Barbour County facility. Once taken to the infirmary that Sunday, medical staff “began life-saving measures” but were unsuccessful. He was 46.

A tenth individual, Eddie Richmond, a 20-year-old incarcerated man at Fountain Correctional Facility, was taken to an area hospital for treatment of an unspecified ailment after being found unresponsive on his bed at the facility, according to the ADOC spokesperson, who said that Richmond is recovering.

The official cause of death for each of the incarcerated individuals has yet to be released, with every case pending a formal investigation by the Law Enforcement Services Division of the ADOC, which investigates all deaths inside the Alabama prison system.

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The uptick in deaths among the state’s incarcerated population amounts to one of the largest increases this year.

A source within the state prison system with knowledge of the deaths the previous week said that the declining correctional staff numbers at nearly every major facility in the state, coupled with access to narcotics and the proximity to the holiday season, are likely reasons the number of confirmed deaths are going up.

The majority of the deaths confirmed last week are likely overdoses, the source said, but this has yet to be confirmed by the ADOC. 

“The rise of depression during that time and the easy access to getting high,” the source said, referring to the possible reasons behind the sudden increase in deaths. “If you don’t have the staff to get to these individuals when they do overdose, and get them some Narcan and bring them back, all that are reasons as to why there are so many deaths.”

Conditions within the state prison system have been called “unconstitutional” by the U.S. Department of Justice in their ongoing lawsuit against the state, with the systematic overcrowding, easy access to narcotics, understaffing of correctional officers, and pervasive violence increasing the number of deaths within correctional facilities.

John is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can contact him at [email protected] or via Twitter.

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