Two prison officers on leave amid investigation into inmate death

Published 5:04 pm Monday, December 9, 2019

The Alabama prison system announced Monday that two officers have been place on leave after the recent death of an inmate and that an investigation is ongoing into the death of another prisoner in what has been a violent year inside state prisons.

The Alabama Department of Corrections said it is investigating the alleged use of force that resulted in the death of an inmate at Ventress Correctional Facility inmate.

Fifty-five-year-old Michael Smith of Fairfield, died Dec. 5 after being removed from life support following a Nov. 30 incident at the prison.

The department released little information about the death, but said two officers were placed on mandatory leave after the inmate died.

The department is also investigating the death of another inmate, 48-year-old Willie Leon Scott who died Dec. 6.

The department didn’t give specifics but said his injuries were the result of an incident that occurred on Dec. 4 at Holman Correctional Facility.

Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said Monday that he is creating a task force to examine inmate-on-inmate violence as well as alleged excessive use of force by staff.

The U.S. Department of Justice in April issued scathing findings that condemned Alabama prisons for high rates of inmate homicides and violence.

More than a dozen inmates have been killed in incidents in state prisons since Oct. 1.

Ten inmates were killed in inmate-on-inmate homicides in a 10-month period between October 2018 and August 2019, according to statistics from the state prison system.

Dunn said last week that it is continuing to investigate the death of Steven Davis, who died after an October altercation with officers at Donaldson Correctional Facility.

His mother, Sandy Ray, last week showed a photograph of her son’s battered face to a state panel created by Gov. Kay Ivey.