A Grave Concern: Unchecked Mortality in Alabama's Prisons

Ashleigh Nicole

human skullPhoto byMathew MacQuarrieonUnsplash

In the wake of a year marked by a record number of deaths in Alabama prisons, the state's prison system has come under increased scrutiny​​. With 266 people dying behind bars in 2022, the spotlight is not only on the disturbingly high number of deaths but also on Alabama's reticence in making this information public.

However, to fully comprehend the severity of the situation, one must look beyond the state borders. When compared to federal prison systems and those of other states, the situation in Alabama becomes even more alarming. In 2018, the mortality rate for federal prisoners was 250 per 100,000 prisoners, significantly lower than Alabama's staggering rate of 588 deaths per 100,000 prisoners in the same year​​. This comparison paints a grim picture of the conditions inside Alabama's prisons.

Notably, mortality rates in state prisons across the U.S. were lower than the overall adult mortality rate in 2018. Even after adjusting for age, race or ethnicity, and sex, Alabama stood as an exception with its high prisoner mortality rate. These figures underscore the urgent need for a thorough investigation and significant reform.

It's important to note that the overall trend in federal prisons has been towards a decrease in the mortality rate, from its peak in 2015, hinting at a disturbing contrast with the increased mortality in Alabama prisons​​.

The current structure of the Alabama prison system appears to be not only harsh but also counterproductive to the goal of rehabilitation. The disturbingly high death rate raises questions about the treatment of prisoners and the conditions they are forced to endure. If the purpose of a prison system is to provide an environment for rehabilitation and eventual reintegration into society, the high mortality rate and harsh conditions in Alabama's prisons suggest a significant failure in achieving this purpose.

As we look at these harrowing numbers, we are left with an uneasy question: How many deaths will it be before we are moved to action? How long must we witness the escalating mortality rates within Alabama's prisons before we acknowledge the systemic failures and demand change?

Every life lost within these prison walls is a harsh reminder of the urgent need for reform. We must not turn a blind eye to this crisis. As a society, it is our responsibility to ensure that our prison system is just, humane, and effective in its purpose. If we continue to ignore the disturbing trends in Alabama's prisons, we are not only failing those who are incarcerated, but we are failing ourselves.

So, I leave you with this thought: When does the count become too high? How many more lives need to be lost before we are propelled into action?

The time to act is now. Let us not wait for the numbers to rise further. Let us not be a society that stands by as lives are lost. The crisis in Alabama's prisons is a call to action – a call that we must answer.

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Ashleigh Nicole is an Alabama-based writer and freelancer, bringing a unique blend of culinary expertise and creative storytelling to the world of writing. The former executive chef at a prominent French bistro was forced to rethink career choice after COVID-19. She is now a truth seeker and news junkie sharing what she finds with her audience. Drawing from her diverse experiences, Ashleigh now uses her storytelling abilities to captivate readers and offer a fresh perspective.

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