Record Deaths in Alabama Prisons; Many Were Preventable


Sources: ADOC statistical reports, published news articles, and public obituaries

More people incarcerated in Alabama’s prisons have died so far in 2022 than in any single year for decades. In the first 11 months of the year, 222 people have died in the state’s prisons.

The Alabama Department of Corrections has not reported the total number of deaths in 2022. Press have confirmed 222 deaths, which exceeds the toll recorded during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Five of the people who died in Alabama prisons this year were women; 217 were men.

EJI has found that one in five deaths in the state’s prisons for men was due to homicide, suicide, or a suspected fatal drug overdose.

At least 18 men died by homicide.  

At least four deaths were due to suicide, according to ADOC statistical reports. Alabama Political Reporter reported that a fifth man, Kishon Green, died by suicide on November 17, according to “a source within the Alabama corrections system with knowledge of the incident.”

At least 23 deaths were due to suspected fatal overdoses. This number is likely much higher. ADOC does not report the number of fatal overdoses in its monthly statistical reports or in statements to the media, saying only that individuals were “found unresponsive.”

The Jefferson County coroner is the only one statewide who has provided information on the cause of death for incarcerated people. That office reported 12 overdoses at state prisons located in Jefferson County during the first 10 months of 2022 alone.

Of the 217 men who have died in 2022, more than a third (88) were 45 or younger. Twenty were younger than 30.

For years, the lack of supervision in Alabama prisons resulting from insufficient staffing and inadequate management has meant that stabbings, assaults, and extortion are regular features of daily life.

These conditions also have fueled an epidemic of drug use and untreated mental illness. Drugs, weapons, and other contraband flow through Alabama’s prisons unregulated—and sometimes even aided—by correctional staff. The result is a highly dangerous prison environment that leads to many preventable deaths.

Alabama’s prison system is the focus of an ongoing lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice. Federal prosecutors allege that ADOC has 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 failed to report as homicides.