By Jo Ellen Nott
Seven prisoners held by the Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC) died during May 2022. One of the seven was murdered. One most likely died of a drug overdose, authorities said, given his age. The remaining five appear to be deaths resulting from natural causes, though autopsy reports typically can take up to 90 days.
Data from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics show that prisoners in Alabama die from violence at a rate five times higher than the national average. More than 70 people have been killed in Alabama prisons since the Department of Justice opened a statewide investigation into the conditions of confinement in Alabama’s prisons for men in October of 2016. The latest deaths include:
Marcus Grubbs, 39, May 4, 2022, when he was killed at Kilby Correctional Facility. He is at least the sixth prisoner to be murdered in an Alabama prison in 2022.
Earnest Charles McReynolds, 69, May 10, 2022, when he died at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility, apparently from complications of a terminal illness, though that determination is pending full autopsy report.
Trey Norwood, 28, May 17, 2022, when he died at Ventress Correctional Facility. DOC said foul play is not on the table as a cause but hinted that drug overdose deaths are common in Alabama prisons, and the pending autopsy may reveal Norwood died of an overdose.
Keith Richards, 55, May 19, 2022, when he died at St. Clair Correctional Facility. Prison officials say the death appears to be related to complications from heart failure. An autopsy report is pending.
Allen DeWitt Bibbs, 48, and Calenses Jones, 42, May 25, 2022, when both died at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility. Jones had been receiving treatment for an undisclosed “significant natural disease.” Autopsy results are pending in Bibbs’ death.
Terrell Penick, 46, May 31, 2022, when he died at St. Clair Correctional Facility. DOC spokeswoman Kelly Betts said that “it appears that he passed away due to complications related to a pre-existing medical condition.”
Grubb’s death is the latest in a long string occurring in Alabama’s prisons, which the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) deemed in 2017 “the most violent in the nation and getting worse.” The nonprofit found that DOC stands alone in the sheer number of prisoners killed in its prisons, holding only 2% of the country’s prison population but recording 10% of the nation’s total prison homicides in 2015. Florida and Texas imprison roughly more than five times as many individuals as Alabama, yet Alabama had more murders in its prisons than either of its fellow southern states.
The federal investigation launched in October 2016 concluded that DOC’s inability to protect its prisoners from violence and sexual abuse violated their constitutional rights. These violations are a result of inadequate staffing and supervision, severe overcrowding, inadequate control of contraband, and ineffective management. EJI and other prison reform advocates see no changes being implemented to improve conditions or safety, yet Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced in 2021 a plan to use federal COVID-19 relief money to help finance the construction of two new mega prisons. [See: PLN, Apr. 2022, p.9.]
Sources: Alabama Reporter, Equal Justice Initiative, WIAT
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