Inmate Fatally Stabbed at State Prison in South Alabama

By The Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala.—One prison inmate was stabbed to death by another over the weekend, state officials said on June 17 in Alabama.

Alabama Department of Corrections spokesman Bob Horton said in a news release that 29-year-old Jeremy Reshad Bailey was fatally wounded Saturday at Fountain Correctional Facility in Atmore, which is near the Florida line.

Correctional officers found Bailey inside a prison housing area with a stab wound. He was taken to hospital but died from the injury.

Fellow inmate Jarvis Terrell Taylor, 31, was being charged with murder, prison officials said. He was serving a 30-year term for a 2007 robbery conviction in Montgomery County.

Bailey was serving a seven-year sentence on a 2017 drug distribution conviction in Jefferson County.

Seven inmates have been killed so far in 2019 inside Alabama prisons, according to prison system statistics and news releases.

The U.S. Department of Justice in April issued scathing findings that condemned Alabama prisons for what it called unconstitutional conditional conditions, including high rates of violence.

The Justice Department said inmates endure an “extraordinarily high rate of violence at the hands of other prisoners,” with the number of inmate-on-inmate attacks spiking dramatically in the last five and a half years. The Justice Department ordered Alabama to begin addressing the problems or face a lawsuit.

The department has acknowledged its problems with understaffing and violence.

Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn has said prison violence rates are directly related to a shortage of officers working inside state prisons. Alabama lawmakers this session approved a pay increase for officers as part of an effort to recruit more prison workers.

jail south carolina
A bunk bed, desks, toilet and sink inside a prison cell. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Inmate Suicides

Suicide, long the leading cause of death in U.S. jails, hit a high of 50 deaths for every 100,000 inmates in 2014, the latest year for which the government has released data. That’s 2½ times the rate of suicides in state prisons and about 3½ times that of the general population.

It’s a problem commonly blamed on the fact that more mentally ill people are landing behind bars, a trend that started after state psychiatric hospitals began closing in the 1970s and promised alternatives failed to emerge. More recently, jails have been overwhelmed with those addicted to opioids or meth, many of whom wrestle with depression and withdrawal.

Increasingly, troubling questions are being raised about the treatment of inmates in many jails, possible patterns of neglect—and whether better care could have stopped suicides.

A joint investigation by The Associated Press and the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service finds that scores of jails have been sued or investigated in recent years for allegedly refusing inmates medication, ignoring their cries for help, failing to monitor them despite warnings they might harm themselves, or imposing such harsh conditions that the sick got sicker.

Reporters spent months examining hundreds of cases in local news reports, reviewing investigations of specific jails, and compiling a database of more than 400 lawsuits filed in the last five years over alleged mistreatment of inmates, most of whom were mentally ill. Some 40 percent of those lawsuits involved suicides in local jails—135 deaths and 30 attempts.

About a third of jail inmates who attempted suicide or took their lives did so after staff allegedly failed to provide prescription medicines used to manage mental illness. Some jail officials say withholding medications for a short period isn’t harmful and that some inmates try to manipulate the system to get drugs.

The first week of an inmate’s detention is critical. In the jail lawsuits, more than half of suicides or attempts occurred during the first seven days, and many of those were within the first 48 hours after intake. Those early days are marked by the sudden stress of confinement when inmates worry about losing jobs, family reaction and an uncertain future.

Many inmates weren’t checked regularly—usually every 15-30 minutes—because of staffing shortages or inadequate training.

Of the 165 jail suicides and attempts, about 80 percent of inmates were awaiting trial.