Yesterday morning, Ricky Stewart, 47, was stabbed to death in a housing unit at Staton Correctional Facility in Elmore, Alabama. Mr. Stewart is the third person to be killed while confined in an Alabama prison in the past six weeks—and the second person killed at Elmore/Staton.
Harold Wallace, 24, was stabbed to death at Fountain Correctional Facility in Atmore on January 11 and Cody Brock, 30, was killed at Staton on December 24.
Prison violence in Alabama is extreme. According to the most recent data from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, Alabama’s prison homicide rate of 80.6 per 100,000 people is more than six times higher than the national average, and is 20 times higher than the homicide rate for nonincarcerated U.S. residents.
The Elmore/Staton correctional complex has been the focus of numerous investigations into violence and mismanagement.
In 2018, EJI reopened its investigation into Elmore/Staton after receiving dozens of reports of stabbings, assaults, extortion, and excessive use of force. The warden and other high-ranking prison officials were implicated in beatings and misconduct.
Over the past five years, six officers, including a lieutenant and two sergeants, have also been criminally indicted for abusing incarcerated people at the complex, including Billy Smith, who died of blunt force trauma to the head after being assaulted by both inmates and officers at Elmore/Staton in 2017. Officers hogtied Mr. Smith and left him on the ground for several hours as he cried for help and vomited on himself.
The State of Alabama was sued in December 2020 by the Department of Justice after federal investigators found that the state’s chronically unsafe prison conditions violated the Constitution.
A DOJ investigation of Alabama’s prison system between 2016 and 2019 concluded that the Alabama Department of Corrections “had long been aware that conditions within its prisons present an objectively substantial risk to incarcerated people. Yet little has changed.”
Since the start of the federal investigation in 2016, at least 66 people have been killed while incarcerated in Alabama—on average, that’s more than one killing each and every month for the past five years.
Despite the continuing crisis, no significant changes have been implemented within state prisons to improve conditions or safety.