MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Three men died in apparent inmate-on-inmate assaults in less than one week in Alabama prisons, a spate of death that happened as the state faces a Justice Department lawsuit over prison violence and legislators seek more information from the troubled system.
The deaths happened this month in separate incidents at three different prisons, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed. The prison system said the deaths are being investigated.
State Rep. Chris England on Monday said the situation in Alabama prisons is deteriorating instead of improving, and called for the removal of Commissioner Jeff Dunn.
“It seems like the Department of Justice and the court system has met Alabama inertia. I think we are going to get to a point where they are going to force us into action,” England said.
Alabama lawmakers on Monday approved a bill by England that would require the prison system to provide additional information in quarterly reports to the Joint Legislative Prison Oversight Committee, including information on staffing, officer retention and assaults.
The prison system confirmed three inmates were killed in assaults involving other prisoners in a five-day span this month:
— Ian Rettig, a 23-year-old inmate at Fountain Correctional Facility, who died May 4. Rettig had been scheduled to be released from prison the next day.
— Jody Potts, 58, who died May 6 after an assault at Limestone Correctional Facility.
— Regial Ingram, 32-year-old inmate at Bullock Correctional Facility, who died May 8.
No charges have been announced in any of the deaths, but prison spokeswoman Kristi Simpson said all are under investigation.
“This is an issue we take very seriously, and our correctional staff work tirelessly every day to prevent situations where violence may occur,” she said. “Violence of any kind is not tolerated, and we condemn in the strongest possible terms the actions that the perpetrators have taken against these victims.”
The Justice Department last year sued Alabama over conditions in the state prisons, saying the system was failing to protect male inmates from violence involving other prisoners and excessive force by prison staff.
The lawsuit alleges that conditions in the prison system — which the Justice Department called one of the most understaffed and violent in the country — are so poor they violate the ban on cruel and unusual punishment and that state officials are “deliberately indifferent.” The state has acknowledged problems but denied that conditions are unconstitutional.
The lawsuit was filed after the Justice Department twice released investigative reports that accused the state of violating prisoners’ rights.