Two men incarcerated in Alabama were murdered last week as the mortality rate in the state’s prisons skyrockets.
Travis Hutchins, a 34-year-old Black man from Jefferson County, was stabbed to death by another incarcerated man in a housing dormitory at Bibb Correctional Facility on October 7.
Kenneth Gilchrist, a 31-year-old Black man from Mobile, was stabbed to death at Donaldson Correctional Facility on October 11.
The murders are the ninth and tenth homicides in Alabama prisons this year.
They are also the 33rd and 34th homicides since the U.S. Justice Department released its findings in April 2019 that Alabama “routinely violates the constitutional rights of prisoners” by failing to protect them from rampant violence and sexual abuse. The Justice Department found “a high level of violence that is too common, cruel, of an unusual nature, and pervasive.”
Over the past decade, Alabama’s prison system has seen one of the largest and fastest increases in prison mortality in the country. Alabama’s prison mortality rate increased from 296 deaths per 100,000 incarcerated people in 2008 to 588 in 2018. That 99% jump is more than three times the increase seen in other state prisons across the country.
Since 2018, Alabama’s prison mortality rate has continued to rise, reaching 1,087 deaths per 100,000 in 2020.
Alabama’s skyrocketing prison mortality rate is fueled by deaths from homicide, suicide, and drug overdoses, many of which are not publicly reported and are misclassified as deaths due to “natural causes” in statistical reports produced by the Alabama Department of Corrections.
The Justice Department found that ADOC’s reporting “obscures the level of harm from violence in Alabama’s prisons for men” by classifying “prisoners’ deaths as occurring by ‘natural causes’ when the death is caused by prisoner-on-prisoner violence.”