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Former Alabama correctional officer sentenced to prison for beating prisoner

A federal judge sentenced Ulysses Oliver Jr., 47, a former Alabama Department of Corrections Sergeant, to 30 months in prison.

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A federal judge on Friday sentenced a former Alabama correctional officer to 30 months in prison for beating two handcuffed incarcerated men.  

Ulysses Oliver Jr., 47, a former Alabama Department of Corrections Sergeant, will have to serve the 30 months in full, as there is no parole in the federal system. 

According to Oliver’s plea agreement, on Feb. 16, 2019, Oliver watched surveillance footage of what another officer said may be two inmates picking up a package of contraband outside of the visitation area’s fence line. After watching the video Oliver “became enraged” and went into a room where both inmates were sitting quietly and with their hands handcuffed behind their backs, according to court records. 

Willie Burks III, 41, a former lieutenant, in February was sentenced nine years in prison for failing to intervene when Oliver began beating the men. 

Former Alabama correctional officers Bryanna Mosley and Leon Williams pleaded guilty in May and July 2019, respectively for failing to intervene in the beating. 

“Burks then stood and watched as Oliver pulled the second inmate from the observation room, threw him on the floor, and beat the inmate with his feet and his collapsible baton,” the DOJ said in the release. “Despite having the duty, ability and opportunity to intervene to stop Oliver from beating the second inmate, Burks only stood by and said, “it’s fair.” Other ADOC correctional staff who reported to Burks were present for some or all of the assaults, but none intervened to stop Oliver from beating the inmates.” 

“After the assault, Burks allowed Oliver to come back into the observation room where the victims were held. As Burks again stood by and did nothing, Oliver entered, stood over the victims, and shoved the tip of his baton into the face of one of the victims, lacerating the victim’s face,” the DOJ continued. 

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The DOJ is suing Alabama and the Alabama Department of Corrections for what the federal government says is the state’s failure to protect incarcerated men from physical and sexual violence and death, despite years of warnings from the federal government. 

The DOJ in the amended complaint in May 2021 — signed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland — describes the pattern of violence in Alabama’s prisons for men as “pervasive and systemic” and explains the state has failed to address the deep-seated problems since being notified in 2019. 

Violence at the hands of correctional officers also continues, despite warnings by the DOJ in 2019, according to the complaint. 

Alabama Department of Corrections Lt. Mohammad Jenkins was arrested in March and charged with second-degree assault in connection with the beating of an incarcerated man at William E. Donaldson prison. 

Days before he was found unresponsive in hi cell, dying at a local hospital two days later, that incarcerated man, Victor Russo, wrote a letter to the prison’s warden, and sent a copy to his family, detailing the beating, which Ruso said was witnessed by several other officers, who failed to intervene.  

“The Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment, which includes malicious uses of force by correctional officers,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division, in a statement Friday. “The Department of Justice will hold to account officers who brutalize incarcerated persons.”

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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