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Three incarcerated men die at Donaldson Correctional Facility in three days

Austin Knowles, Denarieya Letrex Smith and Timmy Wilson died between Sept. 29 and Oct. 1.

William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Jefferson County. Google Earth

Three incarcerated individuals at William Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer died last week in as many days, according to statements from the Alabama Department of Corrections and the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office.

Austin Knowles, Denarieya Letrex Smith and Timmy Wilson — all incarcerated men at the Jefferson County facility — died between Sept. 29 and Oct. 1, according to ADOC and the coroner’s office.

Smith, 30, was pronounced dead in the early morning hours of Oct. 1 after receiving “sharp force injuries” from another incarcerated individual at the facility, according to the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office. Smith’s death is “being investigated as a homicide”, the coroner’s office said.

Knowles, 25, was brought into the infirmary last Thursday, where healthcare staff attempted life-saving measures.

“All life-saving measures were unsuccessful, and he was pronounced deceased,” a spokesperson for ADOC said in a statement obtained by APR. Knowles’s official cause of death is pending a full autopsy. 

Wilson, 66, was found unresponsive in his cell by his bunkmate and later pronounced dead in the late evening on Sept. 30. The Jefferson County Coroner’s Office said in a statement that it found “no evidence of trauma or foul play related to death”.

As with all cases of death in Alabama’s prison system, the Alabama Department of Correction Law Enforcement Services Division is investigating the incidents.

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Donaldson Correctional Facility — a maximum security institution located in Bessemer — is one of the deadliest correctional facilities in the state. The most recent statistics released by ADOC show that at least 34 individuals have died in prison over a year-long period ending in July.

July was an especially deadly month at the Bessemer facility, with five incarcerated individuals dying within days. Since July, at least three other incarcerated individuals have died in the facility, according to a statement from ADOC.

A lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice links ever-present narcotics and rampant violence within the Alabama prison system to the lack of correctional staff at major facilities around the state. The same suit alleges there are “unconstitutional conditions” and that administrative officials are “deliberately indifferent” to those conditions.

John is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can contact him at [email protected] or via Twitter.

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