MONTGOMERY, AL — The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) has repeatedly released inaccurate information to the public, significantly underreporting the number of persons assaulted in state custody, according to an analysis by the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR). SCHR recently confirmed that the ADOC failed to report to the public numerous assaults that occurred at one Alabama prison, Donaldson Correctional Facility, over at least one year.
Each month, the ADOC posts on its website a “Monthly Statistical Report” containing information on the number of critical incidents at each prison, including deaths, inmate-on-inmate assaults, fights, and sexual assaults. Until the September 18, 2009 Alabama Supreme Court decision in Barksdale v. Allen, these reports were the only information the ADOC shared with the public concerning incidents that happened behind prison walls.
SCHR compared the data in the ADOC’s public monthly statistical reports to the ADOC’s own internal incident reports for the period of April 2008 – April 2009. The results are undeniable: ADOC underreported the number of critical incidents – including assault, sexual assault and suicide – at Donaldson between April 2008 and April 2009 during every month of that year except one. Inaccuracies in publicly released data include the following:
• The ADOC’s March 2009 statistical report stated that there were “0” assaults, “0” fights, and “0” sexual assaults at Donaldson that month. Internal ADOC reports, however, revealed two knifings, two other assaults with weapons, and seven assaults/fights without weapons in March 2009. One of these assaults required a prisoner to be transported to the hospital for eye trauma; another required a prisoner to be transported to the hospital after being beaten in the face with a lock; a third prisoner was severely beaten with a piece of wood; another alleged he was raped.
• The ADOC’s June 2008 statistical report stated that there were “0” assaults and “0” fights at Donaldson that month. In fact, there were at least 6 fights/assaults, including one in which a prisoner was stabbed 15 times, requiring emergency transport to an outside hospital for a collapsed lung, and another in which a prisoner was found “unresponsive” and “covered with blood” with “blood on the locker boxes, wall, and floor of the cell.”
• The Department disclosed only 1 “assault with serious injury” between April 2008 and April 2009. In fact, at least 16 prisoners at Donaldson were taken to outside hospitals for emergency treatment for violent trauma during this period. At least two of these men suffered collapsed lungs, one was blinded in one eye and required multiple surgeries, another was urinating and vomiting blood after being beaten, and another suffered eye trauma.
• During the month of May 2008 alone, 5 men required transport to a free-world hospital to receive emergency medical care for violent trauma. One was blinded in one eye, another was stabbed and “bleeding profusely in the facial area,” a third was stabbed and suffered an “open chest wound” with potential for “fluid volume deficit,” a fourth was stabbed in the chest with heavy bleeding, and a fifth was found “covered in blood” after a stabbing and transported via Life Saver helicopter to the hospital. In addition, there were at least 4 other assaults/fights reported in internal documents that month. The ADOC’s public data for May 2008 data, by contrast, reported only: 1 fight, 1 assault with serious injury, and 2 assaults without serious injury.
• The Department’s statistical reports show “0” sexual assaults and “0” allegations of sexual assault in April 2008, December 2008, and March 2009. Internal incident reports from the same time frames, however, show otherwise.
• An ADOC official submitted an affidavit in federal court stating that there was a suicide at Donaldson in February 2009 and another in 2007. Neither suicide is disclosed in the ADOC’s monthly reports, which show “0” suicides at Donaldson during these periods.
“The rate of violent assault in a prison is a significant indicator of the safety and security of that facility,” stated SCHR attorney Sarah Geraghty. “Keeping accurate statistics on the number of critical incidents in prisons is vital to the safety of both prisoners and correctional officers.”
As a consequence of these findings, SCHR calls on the ADOC to: (1) conduct an investigation into how the errors were made and correct them; (2) release its findings to the public; and (3) implement a plan to ensure that future public reports on Donaldson and other prisons contain accurate information.
On a related note, one of the nation’s foremost experts in correctional security recently released a report, filed in federal court, calling Donaldson an “unsafe and violence-ridden prison.” The report was filed in Hicks v. Hetzel, 09-cv-155 (M.D. Ala.), by Steve J. Martin, the plaintiffs’ expert witness. Mr. Martin testified in October 2009 that Donaldson is severely understaffed and has an “armed population” of prisoners with a level of “serious lethal weaponry” that “exceeds” what he has “seen in any institution in recent memory.” The trial of this case is scheduled for June 2009.
For additional information, contact Sara Totonchi, Sarah Geraghty or Melanie Velez at 404/688-1202 email@example.com,firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
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