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Alabama correctional officers charged with drug possession, beating prisoner

The U.S Department of Justice is suing Alabama over the state’s deadly prison system, alleging unconstitutional treatment of imprisoned men.

Dramatic clouds behind barbed wire fence on a prison wall STOCK

Two Alabama Department of Corrections officers were recently arrested and charged with possessing drugs and promoting prison contraband, and a third was arrested for beating an incarcerated man with a belt, the department confirmed for APR on Thursday and court records show. 

Correctional officer Akeem Edmonds at Bibb Correctional Facility was arrested on June 9 and charged with second degree assault for beating an incarcerated man with a belt, court records show. Edmond’s case is set for a jury trial on Oct. 25, those records show. 

Correctional officer Jeffery Jackson at Donaldson prison was arrested on Sept. 19 and charged with possession of marijuana, promoting prison contraband and unlawful possession of a controlled substance, according to Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office records. Jackson was released that dame day. 

ADOC sergeant William Patrick was arrested on Sept. 4 and charged with possession of marijuana, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, promoting prison contraband and use of official office for personal gain, according to Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office records. Patrick was released that same day. 

Alabama is being sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged unconstitutional treatment of incarcerated men, including a lack of basic health care and mental health care in understaffed and deadly facilities. 

In previously released reports, the Justice Department detailed systemic problems of abuse from guards, corruption, rampant drug use, violence, overcrowding and understaffing in Alabama’s prisons. The DOJ in those reports states that while new prison facilities might help in some areas, new buildings won’t fully address the state’s widespread, deadly problems in its prisons.

Numerous preventable deaths in Alabama prisons over the summer appear to be drug overdoses, despite no visitations to prisons due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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The Alabama Senate is expected to vote on a package of bills that would see the state spend $1.3 billion on at least two new prisons for men, to include using $400 million in federal COVID aid. Supporters of the proposal say those new prisons are needed to replace the state’s dilapidated older prisons and increase safety for the incarcerated and prison staff. 

Still others say new prisons alone aren’t enough to solve the deadly systemic problems inside Alabama’s prisons, and that a lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice against Alabama over it’s prisons for men does not focus on the physical buildings but rather what the government says is the unconstitutional treatment of the incarcerated in overpopulated and understaffed prisons, as well as systemic problems of violence, drugs, corruption. 

In a 2019 report the U.S. Department of Justice states that “while new facilities might cure some of these physical plant issues it is important to note the new facilities alone will not resolve the contributing factors to the overall unconstitutional condition of ADOC prisons, such as understaffing culture management deficiencies, corruption, policies, training, non-existent investigations, violence, illicit drugs and sexual abuse, and new facilities would quickly fall into a state of disrepair if prisoners are unsupervised and largely left to their own devices, as is currently the case.”

Alabama Democrats pushed for criminal justice reforms to be included in the Legislature’s special session to build new prisons, and two sentencing reform bills were included in Gov Kay Ivey’s proclamation declaring the special session.

One of those bills, which could have resulted in as many as 700 incarcerated people convicted of nonviolent offenses to have their sentences revisited, was killed by Republican opposition.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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