Denarieya Smith, 30, was stabbed to death on Saturday at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility near Birmingham, Alabama.
Mr. Smith is the second person killed in Alabama’s prisons in less than two weeks. On September 22, Roman Salinas, 31, died after suffering serious injuries in multiple assaults at Ventress Correctional Facility.
At least 14 people have been killed in Alabama’s prisons so far this year. With two months left in the year, 2022 is on track to exceed the 18 homicides recorded in 2019, the deadliest year in Alabama’s prisons.
In October 2016, the Justice Department began a statewide investigation into conditions in Alabama’s prisons for men after EJI filed complaints about widespread violence at several prisons, including Donaldson and St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville, Alabama.
At least 78 people have been killed in Alabama’s prisons in the six years since the federal investigation started.
This is almost certainly an undercount. The Justice Department has found that the Alabama Department of Corrections repeatedly misclassified some deaths as “natural” despite autopsies and other medical evidence indicating the deaths were homicides.
ADOC also routinely fails to inform families or other parties about deaths in its custody.
Federal prosecutors informed state officials and ADOC in 2019 that they found that Alabama “routinely violates the constitutional rights of prisoners” by failing to protect them from rampant violence and sexual abuse. Federal prosecutors detailed immediate and long term remedies to correct “serious deficiencies in staffing and supervision and overcrowding.”
But Alabama failed or refused to correct these conditions, the Justice Department under then-Attorney General William Barr alleged in December 2020. Accordingly, federal prosecutors filed a lawsuit against Alabama and ADOC to compel the state to remedy the unconstitutional conditions within the prisons.
The State has spent millions of dollars in payments to outside attorneys to defend it against this lawsuit and other suits brought by the families of people killed in Alabama’s prisons.