The Alabama Personnel Board has reinstated a correctional officer who was dismissed on his warden’s recommendation this spring because he used excessive force against an incarcerated man who subsequently died from blunt force trauma.
Capt. Timothy McCorvey was a senior supervisor at Ventress Correctional Facility in southeast Alabama on January 21, 2023, when he struck Brandon Crosby.
Surveillance video showed Capt. McCorvey entering E-Dormitory at approximately 2:21 am and dragging Mr. Crosby by his shirt collar into the hallway outside the dorm.
Then, according to the administrative law judge who reviewed the video for the board, Capt. McCorvey leaned down and said something to Mr. Crosby and then punched him before securing Mr. Crosby in handcuffs. After he was handcuffed on the ground, Mr. Crosby grabbed Capt. McCorvey’s leg and raised his head slightly. At this point, the ALJ found:
It appears McCorvey hit Crosby a second time in the video. Crosby’s head snapped toward the floor after McCorvey made a sudden movement toward Crosby. Crosby rolled over onto his side and appeared in distress until the end of the video.
Mr. Crosby, 36, died at the hospital later that day from blunt force trauma, according to an autopsy that showed extensive hemorrhaging around his brain as well as multiple rib fractures, liver and spleen lacerations, and deep bruising through Mr. Cosby’s neck.
An internal investigation by Alabama Department of Corrections staff later concluded that Mr. Crosby had ingested drugs that caused him to fall off his bunk and hit his head on the floor.
Two separate ADOC investigations concluded that Capt. McCorvey used excessive force in violation of ADOC policy by striking Mr. Crosby once with a closed fist and a second time with an open hand even though, the ALJ wrote, Mr. Crosby “did not pose a threat to McCorvey and never engaged in active resistance.”
The warden at Ventress recommended Capt. McCorvey’s dismissal, citing the “unnecessary and unwarranted force that was used against the inmate,” and ADOC terminated his employment on April 4.
He appealed the dismissal to the Alabama State Personnel Board, which adopted the ALJ’s findings that his use of force was “excessive and unnecessary since Crosby was handcuffed.” The board nonetheless reinstated Mr. McCorvey with full back pay minus a 10-day suspension. Mr. McCorvey remains employed by ADOC.
Mr. Crosby is one of numerous incarcerated people who have died or suffered grievous injuries after assaults by officers at Ventress.
On November 30, 2019, Sgt. Derek Simmons, Officer Jujuan Whigham, and other Ventress officers reportedly assaulted Michael Smith, who was hospitalized with bilateral skull fractures, internal brain bleeding, fractures to his nose and eye socket, and broken teeth. According to court records, prison staff told the responding paramedics that Mr. Smith sustained his head injuries “by falling off his top bunk.”
Mr. Smith died on December 5, 2019. His death was ruled a homicide caused by blunt force head trauma. ADOC announced that it was investigating “an alleged use of force” and placed two officers on leave. It also agreed to pay private attorneys up to $1.2 million to defend it against a lawsuit filed by Mr. Smith’s family. In 2022, former Sgt. Simmons was charged with manslaughter in connection with Mr. Smith’s death.
In 2018, Ventress Sgt. Markeon Persons struck Daniel Beaty in the jaw while Mr. Beaty was handcuffed behind his back. A nurse testified that the blow dislocated Mr. Beaty’s jaw and left a bone fragment protruding from his gum. Sgt. Persons was dismissed and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges.
On August 4, 2010, a group of officers including Lt. Michael Smith used their batons, fists, and feet to beat Rocrast Mack to death in a dormitory at Ventress after he was accused of looking inappropriately at a female officer. Mr. Mack sustained fractures to his ribs, arms, legs, and skull during the attack. An autopsy concluded he died as a result of multiple blunt force trauma. Multiple officers pleaded guilty in federal court to assaulting Mr. Mack and to obstruction of justice for covering up the assault.
These examples of prison guards brutally attacking the people in their care are among dozens uncovered by federal investigators and detailed in a Justice Department report sent to Gov. Kay Ivey in 2020.
“[U]ses of force are so commonplace in Alabama’s prisons that officers, even supervisors, watch other officers brutally beating prisoners and do not intervene,” federal prosecutors found. “In short, in Alabama’s prisons, cruel treatment of prisoners by staff is common.”
Even though Alabama has been on notice for years that it is violating the Constitution by failing to protect incarcerated people from excessive use of force by prison staff, ADOC has made no meaningful changes, and the toxic culture of unlawful violence by prison officers and supervisors continues unabated.
At least 80 ADOC employees have been criminally charged or administratively sanctioned for misconduct within Alabama prisons since 2019 alone. In 30 of those cases, the offending officers were supervisors.