Fifth Homicide at Donaldson Is Latest in Alabama Prison Crisis


The crisis in Alabama’s prisons has claimed another life. David Sloan, 45, died on Sunday in the prison infirmary at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama, of injuries sustained in an assault on June 24. Mr. Sloan was taken to the University of Alabama at Birmingham hospital with blunt force injuries after the assault, but was discharged back to the prison on Thursday.

At least 11 men have been killed in Alabama’s prisons since January. The homicide rate at the state’s men’s prisons over the past seven months is 59 killings per 100,000 people—nearly five times the most recent national average for a full year. 

Mr. Sloan is the fifth person killed at Donaldson in the first half of 2022. On February 22, Barry Gardner was stabbed to death in a Donaldson dormitory. Victor Russo died two days later after a senior officer struck him in the head and caused blunt force trauma injuries. A week later, William Jennings was beaten to death in a two-man cell at Donaldson. Mitchell Cosby was stabbed to death on June 15.

At least 75 people have been murdered while incarcerated in Alabama since 2016, when federal prosecutors began investigating violent and abusive conditions in the state’s prisons. On average, that’s more than one killing each and every month for the past six years.

Alabama has had more prison homicides in six years than most states have had over nearly two decades. 

Despite the continuing crisis, no significant changes have been implemented within state prisons to improve conditions or safety—even after the Justice Department sued the State for failing to address unconstitutional conditions in its prison system. Violence in Alabama’s prisons has instead increased dramatically since the Justice Department launched its investigation. 

There is evidence that the Alabama Department of Corrections has repeatedly misrepresented data about the number of lives lost to homicide, suicide, and drug overdoses in its prisons. Federal investigators discovered at least 30 deaths of incarcerated men that were not disclosed by Alabama prison officials and identified three homicides in 2017 and 2018 that ADOC had failed to report as homicides.