15Oct 2020
Oct 15, 2020

Alabama Department of Corrections – Changes to Protocols Due to COVID 19

The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) proves regular updates to infection rates, response protocols, active infections, and some COVID-related protocols (ADOC, 2020).

The ADOC provides a handbook to all inmates upon entry. Family and friends likely need to download or refer to the handbook online. This could be problematic if family and friends do not have internet access, especially since many public libraries are closed or have limitations on access (JCPL, 2020; MPL, 2020). However, all in-person visitation is suspended with no projected end date (Lundberg, Personal Communication, 2020). ADOC is allowing for some additional phone calls in lieu of the in-person visitation without charge to inmates (WAAY TV 13, 2020). Additionally, inmates are not being charged a co-pay for medical care.

The protocols by the ADOC has increased the inmate population in county jails as the intake is limited to 240 inmates per month (Horton, 2020). Groups of 120 inmates are quarantined in the ADOC intake facility for two weeks. If any inmates test positive, the entire group is quarantined for another two weeks. This is putting heavy loads on the county jails as they must retain more inmates and that increases the risk of Covid infections within their jails for inmates and employees. In addition, many jury trials are postponed, which is also increasing the number of inmates in all facilities.

County Jails

The following a summary of several county jails, which were chosen based on the community risk.

Mobile County is adjacent to Louisiana, which has had uncontrolled community spread. This county is currently listed as high risk, meaning that there is been a slight downward trend in new cases in the last 1-6 days (APH, 2020). The County Jail serves as the county and City of Mobile jail. They have modified their visitation to only allow video visitation with friends and family but are allowing face to face visitation with clergy, medical professionals, and legal/lawyers.

Bullock County is one of three counties rated as very high risk, meaning the daily number of new cases is stable or increasing (APH, 2020). Bullock County appears to have no online presence with the exception of some general state agency provided webpages and Facebook for some departments. The Sheriff’s office is not among those with an online presence.

DeKalb County is rated at very high risk (APH, 2020). In March 2020, DeKalb County Sheriff implemented COVID-19 precautions such as restricting all visitation to online/video and restricting in-person access to the facilities. The county jail is contracted to house some state jail inmates as well as county inmates.

Marengo County is rated as very high risk and is one of the hardest hit counties in the United States (APH, 2020; Huff, 2020). This is in part because Alabama has one of the highest rates of pre-existing conditions in the general adult population that increase risk. No information was disclosed that the county jail has restricted in-person visitation.

Policies
Type of FacilityFamily VisitationAttorney VisitationCommissary/ Money for ExpensesOther Programs
General InformationHours and Parking for VisitationInmate Property Release
State-Run Correction Facility
  • Only individuals listed on the initial intake form may visit the inmate during the first 60 days without special permission from the Warden.
  • Up to eight adults and eight children may be on visitation list, all of whom must be pre-approved by Warden. There are limitations on opposite sex friend visits if married.
  • Visitation list can only be changed every six months.
  • Phone calls are pre-paid or collect. Inmates can have accounts to purchase pre-paid time.
  • Visitation was suspended in March 2020. No date has been set for when visitation will be allowed (Lundberg, Personal Communication, 2020; WAAY TV 13, 2020; The Marshall Project, 2020)
  • Inmate medical co-pays are also suspended
Not providedIn Person attorney visitation is suspended (The Marshall Project, 2020)
  • All funds on an inmate will be placed into their account upon entry to the jail.
  • Online deposits and CashPayToday system, which is located in stores like Dollar General and Family Dollar, grocery stores, and gas stations, Phone in.
  • Use of credit cards charged as cash advance.
  • Incentive packages available (seasonal selection to encourage good behavior). However, there are limitations on the number of packages an inmate may receive and they become ineligible if they violate rules.
  • Multiple work-based programs within facilities (Alabama Corrections Industries) and community work centers
Mobile County
  • Visitation is via video but can be conducted at the jail for free
  • Onsite (video) is only available on Monday but remote video is available 7 days/week
  • Must sign up for the visit at least 1 day but no more than 7 days prior to visit.
Not disclosedCan be conducted face to face or videoOnline submission of funds for commissary as well as gift packs.
Bullock County JailsNot disclosedNot disclosedNot disclosedNot disclosedOnline submission of funds for commissary as well as gift packs.
DeKalb County JailsIn-person suspended and only video/ remote visitation
  • Limited to 3 visitors and for 30 minutes
Not disclosedNot disclosedOnline submission of funds for commissary as well as gift packs.There is a work release program for non-violent inmates, however it’s unclear if that has been suspended.
Marengo County Jails
  • Appears in-person visitation is still allowed
  • Phone calls are collect and are allowed daily except during meals and lockdown status. Limited to 15 minutes
  • Pre-paid calling is available.
  • Male inmate visitation is from 1pm to 3pm on Saturday and Sunday
  • Female inmate visitation is from 9am to 11am or 1pm to 3pm on Wednesdays
The inmate can release to an outside source (unclear if this is a bank or a person). Must return 7-13 after release to personally obtain monies.Not disclosedMonies on the person are placed into an inmate account as part of intake.

Infection Rates and Death Rates

The Alabama Department of Corrections has a dashboard on their website providing details about inmate and employee testing, positivity rates, and deaths system-wide and by facility (ADOC, 2020). Alabama currently has a positivity rate of approximately 7.1% (APH, 2020).

Of the 26 facilities, 16 reported inmate cases of COVID-19 as of October 5, 2020. The facilities with the highest infection rates in the main population (excluding intake populations) include:

  • Limestone near Huntsville, which is the largest of the facilities with 2,086 inmate capacity
  • St. Clair between Birmingham and Gadsen, which is a large prison with a capacity of 1,514 inmates
  • Tutwiler near Montgomery, which is a moderate-size women’s prison with a capacity of 975 inmates
  • Elmore near Montgomery, which is a moderate-size prison with a capacity of 1,176 inmates
  • Staton near Montgomery, which is a moderate-size prison with a capacity of 1,376 inmates
  • Bullock southeast of Montgomery, which is a large prison with a capacity of 1,658 inmates
  • Ventress southeast of Montgomery, which is a large prison with a capacity of 1,650 inmates
  • Easterling southeast of Montgomery, which is a moderate-size prison with a capacity of 1,267 inmates
  • Fountain northeast of Mobile, which is a large prison with a capacity of 1,613 inmates
  • Holman northeast of Mobile, which is a moderate-size prison with a capacity of 1,010 inmates

The City of Montgomery is located in the northwest corner of Montgomery County, which is currently strongly trending towards reduced county-wide cases of COVID-19. Montgomery County is currently low risk, meaning that there has been downward trends in positive cases for at least 14 days (APH, 2020). The state prisons in this area are also showing downward trends in populations with active cases.

The Bullock County area jails are showing downward trends, which is opposite of the surrounding county. However, of note is that the employees appear to have more cases currently. This may be an indication of the employees off duty activities that could impact the inmate populations in the near future.

The Limestone facility is located near Huntsville in Limestone County. As the largest jail, it recorded one of the smallest number of testing rates with only 46 of the inmates tested through October 5, 2020. This is approximately 2% of the inmate population. With Limestone County being at high risk (meaning there is a trend downward but only for 1-6 days), this is a very low rate of testing and the jail is likely under reporting cases.

County Jails

Three counties are currently listed as very high risk (meaning there is increasing or stable new daily cases); Bullock, DeKalb, and Marengo counties (APH, 2020). Unfortunately, the counties are not disclosing their infection rates and there is minimal news coverage except in the case of deaths.

Type of FacilityInfectionDeath
NumberPositivityNumberDeath Rate of Positive Cases
State Jails (ADOC, 2020)Inmate43015%A246%
Employee404Not determined2>1%
Tutwier/ Elmore/ Staton State JailsInmate8222%B79%
Employee68Not determined23%
Bullock/ Ventress/ EasterlingInmate10123%C1010%
Employee63Not determined00%

AThis rate is from the start of the pandemic. As of October 6, 2020, 378 inmates had recovered.
BThis rate is from the start of the pandemic. As of October 7, 2020, 69 inmates had recovered.
CThis rate is from the start of the pandemic. As of October 7, 2020, 86 inmates had recovered.

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