MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The Alabama Department of Corrections announced in its October 2022 report released this week that it will no longer include inmate death statistics in the monthly reports. Instead, the data will be available in the quarterly reports.
But the department is behind in publishing quarterly reports. If you check out the agency’s website, the most recent quarterly report includes data only up until June of last year.
“If that’s how they’re going to report deaths, does that mean we’re not going to get information for six to seven months? That’s not reasonable at all,” Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice Executive Director Carla Crowder said.
Crowder says considering the ongoing uptick in inmate deaths over the last several years, the Department should strive for more transparency, not less.
“For nobody in state government to say, ‘What’s going on here? What’s the explanation? Why are so many more people dying?’ I think Alabama’s better than that,” Crowder said.
Barbara Maxwell lost her son Justin in February 2022. She says he was serving a seven-year sentence at Easterling Correctional Facility when she got a call from the prison.
“‘At 12:00, we found your son unresponsive.’ I lost it,” Maxwell said, recalling the phone call.
She later learned from another inmate’s Facebook post that her son died of an overdose. Maxwell says how often the ADOC reports the deaths is less an issue than the fact they’re happening at all.
“They want to try and make some kind of change. But just reporting the deaths? We’re gonna find out,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell says she just wants answers over why her son and so many others are dying in Alabama’s prisons, and how the drugs are getting in.
“How is that getting in there? Can y’all explain that to us? Tell the mothers and the children of the dead people how they got it,” Maxwell said.
The ADOC did not respond to a request for comment for this story. But in a previous email exchange, the Department said the first quarterly report for 2023 is expected to be out mid-January.