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Incarcerated person takes guard hostage at Donaldson facility, situation ongoing

Statewide prison lockdown after an incarcerated individual took a guard hostage at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility.

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

There is a statewide lockdown of Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) facilities after an incarcerated individual took a guard hostage in the middle of the night at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility. There are reportedly drones, helicopters, National Guard personnel, SWAT, CERT personnel, snipers and other law enforcement officials surrounding the facility. 

The individual suspected of taking the correctional officer hostage is Derrol Shaw. According to a source, Shaw got into an altercation with the guard and took a gun and the officer’s vest. However, it is against ADOC policy for officers to have guns at the facility, but it is unclear at the moment how or why the officer had the weapon. 

According to multiple sources, a nurse was caught attempting to enter Donaldson with a gun on July 24. It was the nurse’s first day and she refused to enter the facility without the gun. She said she was told she would be working around “animals”.

Warning: Videos contain explicit language.

Shaw posted two videos on Facebook Live of himself while wearing the officer’s vest, whose last name is Downey. The videos also show Shaw has apparent wounds that, according to a source, are from his altercation with the guard. There is another video circulating showing Shaw wielding the gun.

APR heard from a separate source that there were no guards inside the facility a few hours ago and that a SWAT team entered the prison at approximately 8:30 a.m.

ADOC provided a statement to APR on the hostage situation saying:

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“ADOC’s Law Enforcement Services Division (LESD) can confirm it is investigating a security incident that took place at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama. Currently, the facility is on lockdown for the safety of the staff and the inmates, but there is no threat to the public. LESD is being assisted by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.”

Shaw expressed in his Facebook Live videos that he is just “fed up” with the conditions inside the prison citing the constant chaos, violence and deaths, even of his own friends. Shaw also said that ADOC is upholding white supremacy and that the prison system is just “modern-day slavery”.

“They like to use crime and punishment as the guise for keeping up white supremacy but that’s an old trick that’s been exposed,” Shaw said. “…They profess to be about law and order but they don’t follow no kind of laws these people break the laws. Completely disregard the laws bend the laws and do all of that as they see it.” 

Shaw stated that people are dying every day, and it has taken a toll on him. He also compared it to a war-zone due to the percentage of individuals who are either dying, being subject to violence or long-term injuries. 

“They killing us, they create the conditions so that we die all the time,” Shaw said. “…And I’m just supposed to go for that until I die? No, not me, not I…It’s just chaos, absolute chaos, every single day. Chaos, violence and death every single day.”

In 2021, Shaw was one of four other incarcerated people who was beaten by correctional officers. 

So far this year there have been approximately 110 people who have died in ADOC facilities. That number is likely an undercount and also does not contend with the consistent incidents of violence that happen in prison facilities that do not end in death. 

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APR previously reported on multiple incidents that occurred in just one day across several ADOC facilities. The incidents included an escapee who has still not been caught, multiple individuals who died from causes currently still being investigated and an individual who attempted suicide.

Shaw said he doesn’t want to be portrayed as a villain because he is just one person responding to, “a system that these people operate every day all day for years.” Shaw was convicted in 2008, after pleading guilty to multiple murders and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

APR has received information that Shaw has been tranquilized by responding personnel. APR is awaiting a response from ADOC after contacting them to confirm whether this information is true.

Several organizers, protestors and loved ones of incarcerated people are either headed to Donaldson or already there. Many are showing up because they believe the hostage situation is the direct result of ADOC’s treatment of the incarcerated and lack of accountability.

APR spoke to one individual named Nikki who traveled over 1 hour and 45 minutes from Decatur to Donaldson. Nikki said has several incarcerated loved ones and she is fully in support of Shaw’s actions because she knows the inhumane treatment incarcerated people suffer yet nothing is ever done about it. 

“Basically what happened today is, is a result of the environment and hopelessness that ADOC and Kay Ivey have created,” Nikki said. “This is the thing. They kill our loved ones, they kill our people on the inside on a regular basis. Nobody does anything they get away with it. But when they feel like something is going to happen to one of theirs, look how they respond. They don’t want to be peaceful.”

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UPDATE: Shaw has been arrested and moved to Kilby Correctional Facility. ADOC provided a statement regarding charges Shaw will face which can be read here:

“Inmate Derrol Shaw will be charged with Promoting Prison Contraband I, Certain Persons Forbidden to Possess, and Terroristic Threat. Additional charges may be pending.
Shaw was treated at the health care unit for minor injuries. No other inmates were injured in the incident. The Law Enforcement Services Division investigation into this incident is ongoing. Additional information will as possible.”

Patrick Darrington is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected].

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