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Assaults, deaths down inside Alabama prisons; sexual violence up

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The amount of assaults, contraband and deaths within Alabama’s prisons continued to decline during the second quarter of fiscal year 2024 according to a new report from the Alabama Department of Corrections.

Instances of sexual violence and harassment, however, increased.

Derived from data between Jan. 1 and March 31 of this year, the new report shows that 420 assaults were documented within Alabama prisons, down from 446 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, the first quarter of fiscal year 2024. During Q2 of 2023, there were 481 documented assaults.

The new data on assaults during Q2 2024 represent a 5.8% drop from Q1 2024, and a 12.7% drop from a year prior during Q2 2023. This represents a shift when compared to last year, when prison assaults increased by more than 41% when compared to the previous year.

Deaths within prisons were down too, with 144 inmate deaths documented during Q2 2024, down from 155 in Q1 2024, and down from 164 reported in Q2 2023.

Instances of inmates being found in possession of weapons also dropped significantly in Q2 2024, with 762 such instances; 203 of them knives, five of them firearms, and 554 of them other  miscellaneous types of weaponry. This figure represents a 14.3% drop from Q1, and a 55.2% drop from a year prior during Q2 2023.

Violence within Alabama’s prison has been an ongoing problem, with the state’s prison system currently under threat of a federal government takeover due to a 2020 lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice over violent prison conditions.

Through last year, violence only increased within Alabama’s prisons since the lawsuit was filed. The latest quarterly report represents the second consecutive quarter of improvement in this area.

Other metrics saw improvements as well in the latest report, including the amount of controlled substances discovered in the possession of inmates. In total, ADOC staff seized 36,185 grams of controlled substances during Q2 2024, which, while up from the 24,961 grams seized in Q1 2024, was significantly down from Q2 2023, where staff seized 85,594 grams.

In all instances, the most common controlled substance seized was marijuana, which constituted 43.4% of all controlled substances seized in Q2 2024; 30.1% for Q1 2024, and 32.7% in Q2 2023.

The number of electronic devices seized by ADOC staff was also down in Q2 2024 when compared to the same time last year, though up from Q1 2024. This most recent quarter, 2,362 electronic devices were seized, up from the 3,328 seized in Q1 2024, but down from the 2,370 seized in Q2 2023.

The only metric that worsened in the most recent quarterly report were instances of sexual assault and harassment, and by a significant margin.

In the most recent quarter, 370 cases of sexual assault or harassment were documented; 202 of which remain open, and 168 closed. This represents an increase of 81.4% from Q1 2024, and an increase of 70.5% from the same period last year, Q2 2023.

The Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka saw the highest number of sexual assaults and harassment incidents – 120 – during this most recent quarter, 69 of which remain open and unresolved.

The prison has a long history of allegations of officer-on-inmate sexual violence, and was named in 2013 as among the top ten-worst prisons in the United States by Mother Jones magazine. In its monthly and quarterly reports, however, ADOC does not include data on officer-on-inmate violence or harassment.

As of March 31, the inmate population of ADOC is 20,404, down slightly from the 20,497 reported at the end of Q1 2024, but up from the 19,873 reported at the end of Q2 2023. At the same time, ADOC staffing has improved, and is now at 1,885, up 81 people since the end of Q1 2024, and up 180 since the same time last year.

Alabama lawmakers have worked with the Department to address Alabama’s overcrowded and violent prison system, and in 2021 passed a law authorizing the construction of two new prisons that would house 8,000 inmates between them. One in Elmore County, which is expected to be complete in around two years, and the other in Escambia County.

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