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The Killing Fields: Three Alabama State Prisoners Murdered in Five Days

by Ed Lyon

On May 8, 2021, 32-year-old prisoner Regial Ingram died at Alabama’s Bullock Correctional Facility. On May 6, 2021, 58-year-old prisoner Jody Potts died at Alabama’ s Limestone Correctional Facility. On May 4, 2021, 23-year-old Ian Rettig died at Alabama’ s Fountain Correctional Facility. Although the mortal week’s first fatality, Rettig is listed last because his death was the trio’s most tragic. He was scheduled to be released from prison the very next day.

Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) spokesperson Kristi Simpson stated the three deaths are being investigated by ADOC’s Law Enforcement Services Division. The deaths are believed to have been caused by prisoner-on-prisoner violence.

In her prepared statement, Simpson said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the actions that the perpetrators have taken against these victims. Each of those incidents are being investigated thoroughly, and appropriate enforcement action—to include referring the perpetrators in question for prosecution—will be taken upon completion of our investigative process.”

For well over a decade, confinement conditions within ADOC have been worse than horrendous for the beleaguered prison system. Located in the center of the country’s Bible Belt, Alabama nonetheless sports one of the nation’s highest per capita imprisonment rates with chronic prisoner overcrowding and understaffing pursuant to a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) report.        The DOJ alleged Alabama was “deliberately indifferent” to the inordinately high-risk atmosphere its prisoners live within as well as “deplorable conditions within Alabama’ s prisons [that] lead to heightened tensions among prisoners.”

The report further stated sex abuse and prisoner on prisoner violence “compared to other similar systems” was a lot higher. Another DOJ report from July 2020 focusing on ADOC’s guards stated they “often used excessive force” on prisoners which violates their Eighth Amendment rights, designed and meant to protect them from that type of cruel and unusual punishment.

Later in 2020 the DOJ instituted a conditions of confinement lawsuit against Alabama, charging ADOC “fails to provide adequate protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence and prisoner-on­prisoner sexual abuse, fails to provide safe and sanitary conditions, and subjects prisoners to excessive force at the hands of prison staff” [See PLN, Apr. 2021, p.34; United States v. Alabama, Case No. 2:20-cv-01971, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ala.)].

Democrat Chris England is an Alabama state representative who agrees with the DOJ’s findings and actions 100 percent. “Our [prison] system is rotten to the core,” he stated at a news conference on Tuesday, May 11, 2021, called to discuss ADOC’s high prisoner death rate.

England labeled conditions within ADOC “horrendous,” and stated ADOC’s Commissioner since 2015, Jeff Dunn, should “step down” from his position. ADOC did not respond.

England recently introduced a bill before the legislature for ADOC to transmit reports to the Legislature’s Joint Legislative Prison Oversight Committee furnishing detailed information regarding staff retention and data detailing prisoner deaths and causes. These reports would be mandatory and due four times every year.

From 2001 to 2018, ADOC’s annual murder rate was ten prisoners per every 100,000. Underlying health conditions exacerbate that rate with many more prisoners dying of medical neglect. ADOC’s current prisoner census is around 24,000.

Since May, another man has been murdered. On July 12, Tyrone Billups, 39 years-old, was stabbed to death by another prisoner at Fountain Correctional Facility. 



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Related legal case

United States v. Alabama