Alabama’s prison system has come under scrutiny in recent months following a federal report that details widespread, systemic issues of abuse and a lack of proper oversight. As a result of the findings, four guards have been charged with using excessive force against an inmate.
The New York Times reports that the charges stem from a 2018 incident at the Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent, Ala. Prosecutors allege that former Sgt. Keith Finch, former Officer Jordan Thomas, Officer Kevin Blaylock and Sgt. Orlanda Walker beat an inmate with batons as he laid on the ground in the fetal position. The incident began when the inmate allegedly attempted to run out of his cell. He was taken to the ground when the officers began beating him.
After the incident occurred, Thomas filed a false report saying that once the inmate was on the ground all use of force had stopped, a claim corroborated by Sgt. Walker, according to prosecutors and prison officials, the Times notes. Officer Blaylock, Thomas and Finch were charged with deprivation of rights under the color of law, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years if convicted. Thomas and Walker were charged with obstruction of justice, which is punishable by a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Bibb Correctional Facility, which houses 1,800 prisoners, was one of the 12 prisons identified in a report (pdf) released by the Department of Justice that detailed multiple instances of excessive force. After the release of the report last week, officials in Alabama were informed that they had 49 days to address the issues raised or Attorney General William Barr could sue the state.
Prison officials for the state have said they are instituting a violence-reduction task force, instituting more training for guards and launching a pilot program for the use of body cameras in certain correctional facilities. They’re also working to address issues of overcrowding and staffing shortages at the facilities.
“The ADOC has been working diligently to redesign and rebuild our correctional system from the ground up to effectively address our longstanding challenges, including staffing shortages, capacity, and facility safety,” prison officials said in a statement, the Times reports. “The Department is dedicated to providing safety and security for staff and inmates alike, creating more desirable working conditions that attract prospective correctional officers who want to make a difference in the lives of inmates, and rehabilitating incarcerated individuals so that they may successfully re-enter society and positively contribute to our world.”
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