Connect with us

Crime

Prison reform group asks for observers on prison commissioner’s task force on violence

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

A group advocating for prison reform in Alabama on Friday asked that external observers be placed on a newly formed task force meant to address inmate-on-inmate violence and alleged excessive use of force by correctional officers. 

The request comes after a particularly deadly month, and year, in Alabama prisons. 

Alabamians for Fair Justice, a coalition of former prisoners, family members and civil justice groups, sent a letter Friday to members of Gov. Kay Ivey’s criminal justice study group, asking that Alabama Department of Corrections commissioner Jeff Dunn include outside eyes into his internal task force. 

“If ADOC wants to invite real oversight of its violent prisons, it must include independent, external observers in its new task force,” reads the letter. “The people of Alabama do not trust prison officials to provide meaningful oversight of the violence in their prisons and amidst their correctional officers’ ranks.” 

Dunn announced formation of that task force on Dec. 9,  following the deaths of two inmates in the previous four days. 

Inmate Michael Smith, 55, of Fairfield was pronounced dead at a medical facility on Dec. 5, five days after a “use of force” incident involving correctional officers at the Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton. Two officers were placed on leave connected to that incident, ADOC has said. 

Another inmate, Willie Leon Scott, 48, of Birmingham was pronounced dead on Dec. 6 at the Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery following an “incident” on Dec. 4 at the Holman prison in Atmore. 

Public Service Announcement

The day after Dunn’s announcement of the new task force two other inmates died in state prisons. 

Brandon Ladd, 31, was pronounced dead by a prison physician at the Bibb Correctional Facility on Dec. 10, and Byron Tubbs, 44, was pronounced dead at the Donaldson prison infirmary on Dec. 10. Both deaths are under investigation, ADOC said in a statement Thursday. 

In another incident involving correctional officers, Steven Davis, 35, of Graysville, died on Oct. 5 after correctional officers “applied physical measures” on the inmate the day before. ADOC said at the time that Davis had attempted to strike an officer with weapons. 

ADVERTISEMENT

At least 27 inmates have died in Alabama prisons in 2019 due to murder, drug overdoses or suicide. 

“Commissioner Dunn has directed the task force to assess measures including “Tactics and Techniques” reinforcement training programs, health and wellness interventions for correctional officers and staff, additional inmate rehabilitation programs and resources, and the reexamination of enhanced surveillance measures such as the possible use of body cameras by on-duty correctional officers,” the statement from ADOC on the task force reads. “Dunn has directed the new internal task force to integrate these actions into the ADOC’s three-year strategic plan.”

The prison reform advocacy group believes the steps Dunn is taking don’t go far enough. 

“Commissioner Dunn’s answer to this escalating crisis is to form an “internal task force.” According to ADOC officials, concerns about deadly use of force will be addressed through a “refreshment course” for correctional officers. We demand more,” the group’s letter reads. 

The group asks that Gov. Ivey and Dunn include on the task force: 

 – Legislators with experience on the prison oversight committee 

– Advocates who have served time in ADOC prisons 

– Lawyers who represent people in prison 

– Family members of people who have been victims of violence in ADOC prisons – Currently incarcerated advocates 

An ADOC spokeswoman received APR’s questions as to whether ADOC commissioner Jeff Dunn would consider honoring the group’s request on Friday, but APR hadn’t received an answer as of Monday afternoon. 

Asked for Gov. Kay Ivey’s comments on the violence in prisons and whether she supports the group’s request for outside observers on the task force, in a statement to APR on Saturday Ivey’s office did not address the group’s request but commented on Ivey’s formation of a prison study group, formed in July, which is expected to make policy recommendations before the Alabama Legislature’s next session begins Feb. 4.

“The governor remains focused and committed to tackling the multifaceted challenges facing the state prison system, and in establishing the Study Group, she is aiming to see data and proven practices further guide needed reform in Alabama,” the statement from Ivey’s office reads. “Over the past five months, the members, who are various policy makers from both sides of the aisle, have worked diligently to study facts and hear directly from the public and others with a variety of experiences involving the system. This also included opportunities for individual meetings with members and staff. Both these individuals and the Study Group have a shared interest in seeing improvements in the state prison system. The group will present its findings to the governor next month to address the tough, complex issues within our criminal justice system.”

 

Advertisement

Crime

Alabama parole officers seize firearms, ammunition and drugs in Enterprise

The seized evidence will be presented to a grand jury for further action and to authorities for potential federal charges.

Brandon Moseley

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

Officers of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles on Wednesday seized two semiautomatic weapons, ammunition and drugs from a convicted armed robber in an operation in Enterprise. One of the seized weapons was stolen.

Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles director Charlie Graddick praised officers Jared McPhaul and Troy Staley for their work.

“The first job every day of our officers is to protect public safety,” Graddick said. “These officers stopped a parolee with a violent history from potentially using illegal weapons to harm someone. We are all grateful for their hard work and dedication.”

The officers arrested parolee Jay Gatewood on a parole violation. Gatewood is out on parole after serving prison time for first-degree robbery and child abuse. Evidence of a possible parole violation was found after a search of Gatewood’s car.

The seized evidence will be presented to a grand jury for further action and to authorities for potential federal charges.

Parolees are required to report to parole officers periodically. Gatewood had failed to report for the month of October so McPhaul directed him to come to the Enterprise office to report. The officers had received a tip that Gatewood might be engaging in illegal activities.

When Gatewood arrived, the officers, acting on the tip, asked if there was anything improper in his vehicle. On questioning, Gatewood admitted to the officers that there was a gun in his car.

Public Service Announcement

McPhaul and Staley then searched the vehicle and found two 9 mm semiautomatic handguns. They also found three ammunition magazines, two of which were fully loaded, and a jar of marijuana with a digital scale.

The parole officers turned the evidence over to the Enterprise Police Department. McPhaul said that one of the guns had been reported stolen.

On March 17, 2008, Gatewood was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the armed robbery of a Dothan law office. He received three additional years for a child abuse conviction.

ADVERTISEMENT

After serving just eight years of his sentence with the Alabama Department of Corrections, Gatewood was paroled in 2016. This was before Graddick was appointed the director of Pardons and Paroles. Gatewood has been supervised by parole officers since his release from prison.

For a convicted criminal to be in possession of firearms is a federal offense. That as well as the possession of illegal drugs and stolen property are all parole violations.

Gatewood, who has been jailed for the alleged parole violations, could potentially have his parole revoked for any one or more of these offenses. That will be determined in a future hearing.

Gatewood could potentially face new charges in the federal system for the gun charge. The stolen property and the marijuana could also be prosecuted in the state court system.

The possession of the digital scale is an indication that the marijuana was for other than personal use.

Depending on the amount of marijuana in the jar and any other evidence presented to the grand jury, Gatewood could potentially face a felony drug charge.

Continue Reading

Crime

Alabama inmate dies after inmate-on-inmate assault

Edwin Wells, 29, died on Oct. 10 from injuries during an apparent inmate-on-inmate assault at the Easterling Correctional Facility, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed on Tuesday. 

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

A Prattville man became at least the 19th Alabama inmate to have died this year in a state prison of circumstances that were avoidable. 

Edwin Wells, 29, died on Oct. 10 from injuries during an apparent inmate-on-inmate assault at the Easterling Correctional Facility, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed on Tuesday. 

Wells death makes at least the 19th inmate to have died from either suicide, drug overdoses or homicide, according to records kept by the ACLU of Alabama’s Campaign for Smart Justice. His death is at least the seventh suspected homicide in state prisons this year. 

ADOC doesn’t typically publish information on an inmate death unless a reporter discovers the death through other means and requests the information, with the expectation of deaths of inmates who tested positive for COVID-19, which the department does regularly release. 

“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and the fatal actions taken against Wells by another inmate are being thoroughly investigated,” said ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Rose in a message to APR. “Wells’s exact cause of death is pending a full autopsy, and more information will be available upon the conclusion of the investigation into his death.”

A U.S. Department of Justice report in April 2019 found that Alabama’s overcrowded, understaffed prisons for men were likely in violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment and its prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, and that ADOC regularly failed to protect inmates from sexual and physical violence perpetrated by other inmates.

An expected followup report by the Department of Justice in July detailed why the federal government believes systemic use of excessive force within Alabama’s prisons for men violates the Eighth Amendment. 

Public Service Announcement

As of Tuesday, at least 29 state inmates and two prison workers have died after testing positive for COVID-19. There have been 453 confirmed coronavirus cases among inmates and 429 among prison staff as of Oct. 14, according to ADOC.

Continue Reading

Crime

28th Alabama inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19

Since the start of the pandemic, 441 Alabama inmates and 415 staff have tested positive for coronavirus.

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

(STOCK PHOTO)

Johnny Dwight Terry on Oct. 8 became the 28th Alabama inmate to die after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Terry, 74, had multiple health conditions and was taken from Limestone Correctional Facility to a local hospital on Oct. 6 after exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus. He tested positive at the hospital where he remained until his death, the Alabama Department of Corrections said in a press release on Friday. 

Two additional inmates and four workers at Limestone prison also tested positive for COVID-19, according to ADOC, bringing the total number of inmates who have tested positive at the prison to 23 and infected staff to 26. 

Since the start of the pandemic, 441 Alabama inmates and 415 staff have tested positive for coronavirus. Two prison workers at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Woman died after testing positive for the disease. Of the state’s approximately 22,000 inmates, 2,834 had been tested for coronavirus as of Oct. 7, according to ADOC.

Continue Reading

Corruption

Attorney general opposes motion to reconsider Hubbard’s prison sentence

“Hubbard is not being punished for his reversed convictions. He is being punished for the crimes of which he remains convicted,” Marshall wrote to the court. 

Eddie Burkhalter

Published

on

Former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard reported for his prison sentence at the Lee County Detention Facility on Sept. 11.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall in a court filing Tuesday opposed a request by former House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s attorney for the court to reconsider his 4-year sentence on six felony ethics violations.

Marshall in the filing said that after four years of appeals, Hubbard remains convicted of those felonies.

“This Court’s carefully calibrated sentence of a four-year split, among other penalties, properly accounted for the severity of Hubbard’s crimes, the position of trust he abused, and the need for serious penalties to deter other wrongdoers,” Marshall wrote to the court. “In addition, Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency now that he is finally in jail.”

“In sum, nothing material has changed since Hubbard earned his four-year sentence four years ago. It’s simply time for him to serve it. Accordingly, his motion should be denied,’ Marshall continued.

Hubbard had originally been convicted by a Lee County jury on 12 ethics violations, and the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals upheld 11 of those convictions, but the Alabama Supreme Court later reversed five of those convictions and upheld six.

He began serving his four-year sentence for the six convictions of using his office for personal gain on Sept. 11.

Hubbard’s attorney argued in a separate court filing that the court should reconsider his sentence because five of the 12 convictions were reversed, but Marshall told the court Tuesday that the sentence Hubbard received was just.

Public Service Announcement

“Hubbard is not being punished for his reversed convictions. He is being punished for the crimes of which he remains convicted,” Marshall wrote to the court.

Hubbard’s attorney in his request to reconsider sentencing also argued that Hubbard has already suffered from a “divestment of his business interests.”

Hubbard’s convictions related to consulting contracts that enriched him while he served as speaker.

ADVERTISEMENT

The state’s attorney general at the time of his conviction determined that Hubbard had bilked Alabama out of more than $2 million.

“Suffice it to say, it is a bad advocacy strategy for Hubbard to mourn his loss of an income stream worth millions, which he financed on the backs of hard-working Alabamians who expected an honest elected official. That Hubbard has lost some of these ill-gotten gains in no way suggests that Hubbard has paid back his debt to society,” Marshall wrote to the court.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement