Report: Ala. prison homicide rate highest in nation

“There is a direct correlation between the level of prison violence and the shortage of correctional staff,” a state DOC spokesperson said

By Christopher Harress
Alabama Media Group

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s prisons have the highest homicide rate in the country, according to a report released Tuesday by a prison advocacy group.

Over the last two years, there have been 19 homicides within Alabama’s prison system, according to the Equal Justice Initiative, the Montgomery-based nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to indigent defendants and prisoners.

That is 600 percent greater than the national average of other prison systems between 2001 and 2014, according to the most recently available statistics available. By comparison, there were 21 homicides in Alabama prisons between 2001 and 2014, according to a Dec. 2016 Bureau of Justice Statistics report on mortality rates inside state prisons.

“There is a direct correlation between the level of prison violence and the shortage of correctional staff in an overpopulated prison system with limited resources for rehabilitating offenders” said Alabama Department of Corrections' spokesperson Bob Horton. “The proliferation of drugs and criminal activity inside prisons also contribute to an increase in violent incidents.”

He added: “The Alabama Department of Corrections recognizes the seriousness of the problem and is taking steps to reverse this trend.”

Two Alabama inmates have been slain in the last two weeks. Vaquerro Kinjuan Armstrong, was stabbed to death at Holman Correctional Facility Monday, which follows the death of James Lewis Kennedy at Elmore Correctional Facility on Nov. 18.

“The conditions are getting worse, and state officials must act now,” said EJI attorney Charlotte Morrison. “This epidemic of violence has once again created a crisis that requires a more committed and effective response from state leaders.”

While the prison population in Alabama has decreased in recent years, forced down by a federal lawsuit, chronic understaffing and violence have continued. The prison population is expected to reach 150 percent of capacity within the next two years, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections’ annual report.

The EIJ report also notes that as many as 198 inmates were crammed into the prison system’s notorious barn-like structures, some serving life sentences.

“ADOC is developing a long-term plan that will revitalize the prison system’s infrastructure and lead to safer and more secure correctional facilities for both inmates and staff,” said Horton.

In 2013 and 2014, Alabama’s annual mortality rate crept above 100 for the first time since 2011, according to the BJS report. Deaths include cancer, heart disease, liver disease, respiratory issue, accidents, as well as homicide and suicide.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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