Third Alabama Prison Homicide in a Month


Felix Ortega, 39, died Tuesday after suffering an assault in one of the dormitories at Elmore Correctional Facility, located north of Montgomery, Alabama.

He was eligible to be released with an ankle monitor next month.

EJI received reports that Mr. Ortega was beaten by multiple incarcerated people demanding money. Other men in the dorm heard him crying and screaming for the men to stop. After the assault, he crawled away and was left lying motionless on the floor.

Officers who later entered the dorm for a population count reportedly were not concerned because they believed he was a so-called “homeless” inmate who had been forced off his bed and made to sleep on the floor. They realized he was dead only after he remained unresponsive for several minutes.

Mr. Ortega is at least the third person killed in an Alabama prison since February 4, when Brian Wanner, 47, died two days after suffering an assault at Bullock Correctional Facility near Union Springs, Alabama.

Christopher Melton, 37, died on or around February 22 after he was assaulted at Ventress Correctional Facility in Barbour County, according to Alabama Political Reporter.

Alabama’s prisons continue to experience record high levels of fatal violence and mortality.

In 2022, 270 people died in Alabama’s prisons—the most  on record in a calendar year for Alabama, according to the Montgomery Advertiser. That includes at least 19 homicides.

Alabama’s prison homicide rate of 92 per 100,000 incarcerated people is more than seven times the most recently reported national average.

The percentage of people incarcerated in Alabama who died of homicide compared to other causes is nearly twice the rate in other states, according to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

More than one in five deaths in Alabama’s prisons were due to homicide, suicide, or drug overdose.

Despite the crisis, Alabama state officials have not announced any plans to reduce deaths in custody.