Prison inmate commits suicide at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer

Prison inmate commits suicide at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer

BESSEMER, AL (WBRC) - Another Alabama prisoner has committed suicide while in custody.

A spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) said James David Johnson, 26, was found unresponsive in his cell at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer with a bed sheet tied around his neck.

A correctional officer found Johnson at approximately 1:50 a.m. Dec. 24 and a nurse administered CPR but was unable to revive him, according to ADOC's spokesperson.

Johnson was serving a 15-year sentence on a 2008 first-degree robbery conviction in Talladega County. He was in a "restricted privileges cell" for a rules violation, according to the prison.

This latest suicide comes several days after the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge to force ADOC to take immediate steps to protect suicidal prisoners.

The SPLC filed the motion after Jamie Wallace, a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit over mental healthcare in Alabama prisons, committed suicide after testifying earlier this month.

Wallace told a federal judge that an officer asked him if he wanted to kill himself and provided him with a razor. The state's attorney challenged whether that story was truthful.

Maria Morris, senior supervising attorney with SPLC, said Alabama's prison system does not have enough mental health or custody staff to keep people safe.

"I'm a little crushed that it's happened yet again," Morris said. "The Alabama Department of Corrections needs to figure out how to keep people safe. It can't just keep happening, these are people's lives," she said.

The exact number of prisoners who have committed suicide in Alabama prisons this year is unclear.

According to testimony from associate prison commissioner Ruth Naglich, 12 prisoners in ADOC custody have committed suicide in 2016. The testimony is cited in the SPLC's emergency motion regarding suicidal prisoners.

But statistical reports on the ADOC website with data through September 2016 show five suicides.

ADOC has confirmed the suicides of Wallace and Johnson, which would bring the total to seven suicides in 2016. The ADOC statistical report also cites 41 attempted suicides by Alabama prisoners in 2016.

The data from October 2014 to September 2015 shows six suicides and 54 attempted suicides in Alabama prisons.

These numbers reflect a dramatic spike in attempted and completed suicides in Alabama prisons. Data from October 2013 to September 2014 indicates one completed suicide and 14 attempted suicides.

The trial regarding mental healthcare of Alabama inmates resumes in Montgomery on Jan. 4 2017. ADOC has denied that the mental healthcare of prison inmates is inadequate.

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