Inmate Commits Suicide at Alabama Correctional Facility Just Days after DOJ Opens Investigation into State Prisons

Alabama Department of Corrections/Free Alabama Movement
Alabama Department of Corrections/Free Alabama Movement

Earlier this month, Robert Deangelo Carter, serving a life sentence for a fatal 2010 stabbing, committed suicide while being held in solitary confinement at Holman Correctional Facility. Carter’s death came just three days after the Justice Department announced a statewide investigation into conditions inside Alabama’s men’s prisons.

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The Escambia County Medical Examiner confirmed Carter’s death on October 9 to Jezebel but could not provide any more information. The Alabama Department of Corrections did not respond to Jezebel’s request for comment.

According to organizers with the Free Alabama Movement, Carter hanged himself after prison officials failed to deliver the mental health care he had requested. “WE SCREAMED, WE KICKED, WE BANGED BUT NO ONE EVER CAME,” Kinetik Justice, who until very recently was also held in solitary confinement at Holman, tweeted. “He just HANGED.”

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Justice has been very active in organizing inmates at Holman, publicizing events inside the prison—like last month’s strike, which a number of corrections officers apparently joined—using contraband cell phones. He was being held in solitary confinement, apparently as punishment for his activism. On Friday, he was transferred to Kilby Correctional, F.A.M. spokesman Pastor Kenneth Glasgow told Jezebel. No one has been able to contact him since then.

Carter is at least the second suicide at Holman this year: William Randall Triplett hanged himself in his cell in April. (In August 2015, an Associated Press investigation found that death row inmates at Holman were more likely to die of suicide or disease than to be executed.) Their deaths can be explained, at least in part, by staff shortages at Holman, BuzzFeed News reports, citing the statements of organizers and former Alabama corrections officers.

If the facility were properly staffed, they said, Carter would have received proper medication and adequate medical checks that could have prevented his death.

Following the strike by prisoners on September 9 and in the following weeks, more than a half dozen corrections officers repeatedly failed to appear for work shifts at Holman. Others have quit, organizers say.

“The prisoners are running that facility, make no mistake,” said one former Alabama corrections officer, who had worked at a different facility before quitting this month, speaking to BuzzFeed News on the condition of anonymity.

“The Constitution requires that prisons provide humane conditions of confinement,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement announcing the department’s investigation earlier this month. “We hope to work cooperatively with the state of Alabama in conducting our inquiry and ensuring that the state’s facilities keep prisoners safe from harm.”

The Justice Department did not immediately return Jezebel’s request for comment.

Reporter, Special Projects Desk

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DISCUSSION

The prison system here in Alabama is an absolute disgrace. We have three districts in Federal Court in Alabama. In one district alone, the court receives at least 20 prisoner complaints a week. At least. Keep in mind that these are only from prisoners in one of the three federal court districts. Even if you take into account that some of those complaints are frivolous (which believe me, we see some doozies), you can’t ignore that the majority of them are probably factual allegations. The complaints the court receives are more often than not hard to read. It really makes me sick to know that the state of Alabama treats our inmates the way they do and it’s going to take a lot to fix it and with conservative state officials, I doubt change will be coming anytime soon.