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Three Murders in Alabama Prisons in Ten Days; State Senate Passes Reform Bill

Alabama state prisons tallied a deadly streak of three unrelated homicides within the 10-day period between February 16 and 26, 2017. Two stabbing deaths were reported at the Elmore Correctional Facility; the third death occurred after a prisoner was beaten in his cell at the Staton Correctional Facility. The following month, too late for the prisoners who died, the state Senate passed a bill to address overcrowding and violence in Alabama prisons.

On February 16, Grant Mickens, 35, was stabbed to death at the Elmore facility by another prisoner who was charged with his murder. That same day, prisoner David Sanders, 41, was found beaten in his cell at the Staton prison; he died two days later at a local hospital. Four prisoners were named as suspects in Sanders’ death. DeMarko Quinta Carlisle, 36, died on February 26 after being stabbed multiple times in a fight at Elmore.

Alabama prisons have long been criticized for overcrowding and understaffing, and the state has experienced an increase in both prisoner-on-prisoner and prisoner-on-staff violence. [See: PLN, May 2016, p.1]. During the 2016 fiscal year, the prison system reported 2,111 violent prisoner-on-prisoner incidents, including 195 assaults involving serious injuries – an 18% increase in total incidents and 65% increase in serious incidents from the previous year.

On March 16, 2017, the Alabama Senate took a step towards solving the longstanding crisis in the state’s prison system by passing S.B. 302, which authorizes the construction of three new correctional facilities to relieve overcrowding. Governor Robert Bentley’s plan had initially called for four prisons to be built; he said of the scaled-back bill,“I commend the Senate for taking a bold and decisive step toward prioritizing public safety in our prison system.... The passage of this bill will help reduce overcrowding and will provide safer conditions for corrections officers as well as inmates within the facilities.”

Meanwhile, the violence has not abated. On May 29, 2017, Bullock Correctional Facility prisoner James Edward Rodgers, 41, was stabbed to death by two other prisoners, Paul Johnson and Christopher Hand, who have been charged with his murder.