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Victims’ Families, SPLC Join to Highlight the Mental Health Crisis in ADOC Facilities and Need for Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform

Wednesday marked the 13th apparent suicide in an ADOC facility in 14 months, roughly quadrupling the national average

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – After the thirteenth apparent suicide of people under the care of Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) in fourteen months on Wednesday, victims’ families, their attorney, and representatives from the Southern Poverty Law Center met at the Alabama State House to urge ADOC, Governor Kay Ivey, and state legislators to immediately address the systemic mental health crisis and need for comprehensive criminal justice reform.
On staffing, ADOC’s previous analysis provided to a federal court states that it must hire 2261 new corrections officers and 130 new corrections supervisors by February 2022 to meet basic legal and safety standards for both officers and prisoners, which will add over $100 million annually to the ADOC budget. There is little evidence that ADOC is on a path to meet those benchmarks. Meanwhile, press reports indicate that the governor and ADOC staff are preparing to build three mega-prisons at a cost of a billion dollars or more.
“Since a federal court found that mental health care in ADOC facilities was grossly inadequate in the summer of 2017, ADOC has continued to fail to provide adequate protection for suicidal people in its custody,” said Maria Morris, senior supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The result is that Alabamians under the supervision of ADOC, many of whom suffer from mental illness, hopelessness, and despair and are not receiving the resources they need, have taken their own lives. ADOC should take action.  They need to step up and treat this like what it is – a life and death emergency.”
“These men died senselessly from suicide because they did not get adequate care from the Alabama Department of Corrections,” said Mitch McGuire, attorney for many of the victims’ families. “That’s unacceptable and immoral, and their families will never replace them.”
“The Legislature must solve this emergency because Governor Ivey and Commissioner Dunn have been derelict in their duty,” said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Every year without action, the crisis deepens and grows more expensive and harder to fix. The costs to the state of Alabama will grow and we will continue to mourn the deaths of incarcerated people who did not receive constitutionally-required care.”
For more information on ongoing ADOC litigation, you can visit SPLC’s website