By Eddie Burkhalter, Appleseed Researcher
A 2021 law requiring enhanced reporting by the Alabama Department of Corrections has now produced a full year’s worth of data with detailed reporting on weapons, including firearms, at Alabama’s prisons.
A total of nine firearms were confiscated by the Alabama Department of Corrections last year, one of which was reported stolen from the guard tower outside a prison. A former correctional officer is charged with that theft. None of the firearms were found inside prisons, according to the department.
Former Alabama Department of Corrections officer Anthony Donnell Brown of Prattville was arrested Aug. 29, 2022, and charged with theft of property II and use of official position for personal gain, according to court records, which allege he stole a Glock .40 caliber handgun that belonged to the department.
Brown is alleged to have stolen the gun from Station Correctional Facility on Dec. 12, 2021, and sold it for $200 before it was recovered by Missouri State Highway Patrol on August 25, 2022, according to those records and a response from ADOC.
In addition to those firearms found by ADOC, the department last year confiscated 4,921 weapons made by incarcerated people and 432 “free world” weapons, which are manufactured weapons to include knives, during 2022, according to ADOC’s quarterly reports. There is no additional information available on the reports as to how more than 400 manufactured weapons made their way into secure facilities.
Another firearm was found in a vehicle during a contraband traffic stop outside of Donaldson Correctional Facility on Aug 21, 2022, an ADOC spokesperson confirmed for Appleseed this week.
Two additional firearms were discovered in a vehicle during a checkpoint near Holman Correctional Facility on July 3, 2022.
“Regarding the firearms inquiries – all three cases are pending prosecution and no firearms have been found inside any facility,” the ADOC spokesperson wrote in a response to Appleseed.
In ADOC’s first quarterly report for the fiscal year 2023, which covers Oct. 1, 2022, through Dec. 31, 2022, three additional firearms were confiscated.
One firearm was confiscated at Donaldson Correctional Facility on Oct. 18, 2022, another was confiscated four days later at Ventress Correctional Facility and a third was found at a facility only listed in ADOC’s report as “OTHER.”
The ADOC spokesperson in the response declined to answer more questions directly about older contraband confiscations and said that doing so is “very time consuming” and questions should be submitted through ADOC’s public records request form. Appleseed on Thursday submitted a records request regarding the three firearms confiscated later in 2022 and awaits a response.
Another firearm was found by a K9 unit on May 8, 2022, at an undisclosed facility, according to ADOC’s third quarter fiscal year 2022 report, and another firearm was confiscated on April 12, 2022, at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women.
In late 2021 two firearms were confiscated in vehicles outside of Alabama prisons. ADOC confirmed last year.
Prisons awash with weapons contribute to the soaring levels of violence and homicide in Alabama’s prisons for men, which are currently being sued by the United States Department of Justice for unconstitutionally dangerous conditions.
There have been at least 54 deaths inside Alabama prisons this year, according to Appleseed’s figures, although the number is likely higher. ADOC does not release timely information about in-custody deaths, and the department’s quarterly reports run six months behind and do not name those who died, leaving it to journalists and others to track deaths.
Of those 54 deaths so far this year, nine are suspected homicides, one is a suspected suicide and at least 32 are suspected overdose deaths. Last year Alabama prisons saw a record 270 deaths of incarcerated people.
The overall mortality rate in state and federal prisons in Alabama between 2008 and 2018 rose by 98.6 percent. Only two states had higher mortality rates than Alabama in 2018 the most recent year for which comparison data is available, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics 2021 report.