Second Alabama Prison Homicide in Less Than a Week


Another man has been murdered in an Alabama prison. Victor Russo was found in his cell at William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility near Birmingham, Alabama, last week.

EJI received reports that Mr. Russo, 60, was assaulted by a senior officer at Donaldson. Mr. Russo was reportedly struck repeatedly in the head and sprayed with chemical agents by the officer before being taken to a restricted housing unit at the prison. Days later, Mr. Russo was found unresponsive in his cell with blunt force trauma injuries and was taken to UAB Hospital, where he died early Friday.

Mr. Russo is the second person killed at Donaldson in four days. On Tuesday, Barry Gardner, 33, was stabbed to death in a housing dormitory at the prison. This brings the number of murders in Alabama prisons to 68 since the Justice Department launched its investigation into unconstitutional conditions in the state’s prisons.

In December 2020, the Justice Department sued the Alabama Department of Corrections after finding that conditions throughout the state’s prison system—including high levels of inmate-on-inmate violence and excessive use of force by officers—violated the constitutional rights of incarcerated people.

In the past five years, 10 Alabama correctional officers, including a lieutenant and four sergeants, have been criminally indicted for abusing incarcerated men in the state’s prisons.

Evidence suggests that a lot of officer-on-inmate violence in Alabama’s prisons has gone uninvestigated and unprosecuted. Many imprisoned people report that corrupt staff sometimes enlist other imprisoned people to carry out assaults, creating perilous conditions inside prisons.