The family of a man who died at an Alabama prison is searching for information about what happened to him after his body was returned to them covered in bruises.
Anthony Kendrick, 27, died at Limestone Correctional Facility on August 8.
His mother and brother, Leota Kendrick and Justis Kendrick, told APR last week that they were first informed of his death by another person incarcerated at Limestone. After that call, they were contacted by the prison chaplain, who told them Anthony had died but did not explain how he died.
The family’s questions about what happened to Anthony were made more urgent when the funeral home that received his body from the prison documented bruising all over him. He had already been embalmed following an autopsy conducted for the prison, APR reports.
Ms. Kendrick told APR that they asked Limestone and UAB Hospital for medical records or an autopsy report but no information about her son’s cause of death has been provided to his family.
Anthony’s death is especially devastating to his family because his mother said the judge was planning to send him to rehab, where a bed was available for him, but on his probation officer’s recommendation, he was sent to Limestone and died less than six months later.
The Kendrick family is not alone. Many families whose loved ones died in Alabama prisons have reached out to local media after the Alabama Department of Corrections refused to tell them how or why their loved one died.
Officials at Fountain Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, did not notify the family of Tracy Besselaar about his death in 2021. By the time they learned about his death from someone at church, Mr. Besselaar had already been buried in a prison cemetery.
Prison officials waited nearly a week to call 22-year-old Cameron Holifield’s family after he died at Staton Correctional Facility in 2022. ADOC buried him on prison grounds without his family’s consent.
ADOC regularly refuses to confirm even to reporters that someone in their custody has died. APR reported last month that ADOC has ignored numerous inquiries to confirm reports of deaths of incarcerated people.
ADOC’s failure to accurately report the number and manner of deaths of people in its care is one of the systemic problems that led federal prosecutors to file an unprecedented civil rights lawsuit against the State of Alabama for failing to protect incarcerated people from physical and sexual violence at the hands of other prisoners and from excessive force by security staff.
The Justice Department found in 2019 that ADOC repeatedly misrepresented causes of death and the number of homicides, overdose deaths, and natural deaths in Alabama prisons. Federal investigators discovered at least 30 deaths of incarcerated men that were not disclosed by Alabama prison officials and identified three homicides in 2017 and 2018 that ADOC had failed to report as homicides.
But instead of addressing the problem by providing more accurate data, ADOC instead stopped reporting inmate death totals in their monthly statistical reporting.
Anthony Kendrick was in good health when he spoke to his mother the day before he died. She told APR she suspects violence may have been involved in her son’s death at Limestone, which has been singled out for its especially high level of violence.
Last fall, federal prosecutors called attention to the crisis of violence at Limestone in particular, saying the prison “fails to provide constitutionally adequate conditions and that prisoners experience serious harm, including deadly harm.”
“Limestone is in a dire need of assistance at this point, and no one is willing to give us assistance in the higher levels of our department,” a prison employee told WAAY News last month. “It is almost like they want us to get hurt or fail.”
Despite repeated calls for action, ADOC has announced no efforts to reduce violence or prevent deaths in the state’s prisons.