Dwight Campbell, a 48-year-old Black man from Butler County, Alabama, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for nonviolent property convictions, died after he was stabbed in a dormitory at Bullock Correctional Facility in Union Springs, Alabama, last Monday. At the time of his death, Mr. Campbell had been eligible for parole for more than eight months. He was scheduled for a parole hearing on December 3.
Mr. Campbell is the 16th person murdered in Alabama’s prisons in the past 12 months. He is the 24th prisoner killed since the U.S. Department of Justice notified Alabama officials in April 2019 that the state’s prison system “routinely violates the constitutional rights of prisoners” by failing to protect them from rampant violence and sexual abuse.
Mr. Campbell’s is the fourth unexplained or suspicious death at Bullock in the past month. Brian Fowler, a 24-year-old white man sentenced to five years in prison for burglary, died on October 22 after a suspected drug overdose. Leonard Tyson, a 63-year-old Black man sentenced to 16 years for receiving stolen property, died on October 28 after a suspected drug overdose. And Derek Shearer, a 36-year-old Black man serving 20 years for robbery, died unexpectedly on October 31.
EJI previously reported that recent decisions by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles to reduce the number of hearings held and paroles granted has created an enormous backlog of people eligible for release who remain in Alabama’s overcrowded, dangerous prisons. As of October 2020, nearly 2,000 people in Alabama prisons who are eligible for parole have been waiting for a hearing for at least four months. Half of them have been classified as minimum custody, meaning they pose the least risk to the public. Nearly half of those who have been eligible for a year or more are classified as minimum custody.
Since 2012, the number of prison homicides in Alabama prisons has more than quadrupled. The state prison homicide rate of 102 homicides per 100,000 prisoners in fiscal year 2020 is more than 12 times the most recent national average reported by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. Over the past year, approximately 1 in 8 of all deaths in the state’s prisons have been due to homicide.
The number of deaths due to suicide and overdoses is increasing at the same time. The Justice Department’s investigation found that the Alabama Department of Corrections “appears unable or unwilling to prevent the introduction and presence of drugs in its prisons.” As a result, men incarcerated in Alabama “are dying of drug overdoses and being subjected to severe violence related to the drug trade in Alabama’s prisons.”