EJI received multiple reports that Lt. Jenkins repeatedly struck Mr. Russo in the head and sprayed him in the mouth with chemical agents while he was handcuffed to a bench before taking him 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.
In July 2020, the Department of Justice found that “ADOC correctional officers often ignore ADOC’s regulation and use chemical spray inappropriately. Prisoners who do not present a danger are frequently sprayed with chemical agents. In those cases, officers seem to punish prisoners for not complying with a verbal order.” They also found that the use of physical force on “a restrained or compliant prisoner who is no longer resisting or presenting a danger,” which is unconstitutional, is a pattern that happens “too frequently” in Alabama’s prisons.
EJI has also received numerous reports, from staff, prisoners, and family members, that Lt. Jenkins is one a group of officers at Donaldson who have repeatedly abusively beaten prisoners, paraded naked prisoners lawlessly, and attacked handcuffed and compliant prisoners who posed no danger with chemical agents.
Complaints about the officers’ abuse of prisoners at Donaldson extend back years. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed by prisoners naming Jenkins along with other officers at Donaldson as engaging in excessive force. A 2015 lawsuit alleged that Lt. Jenkins along with several other officers beat and abused compliant prisoners while they were already handcuffed and repeatedly slammed the handcuffed prisoner’s head into a wall. The Department of Corrections settled the case in 2021.
Lt. Jenkins and other senior officers at Donaldson have been implicated in previous incidents of deadly use of force. Steven Davis died in October 2019 after he was abused and struck repeatedly in the head. According to the Department of Justice, “Numerous prisoner witnesses reported that correctional officers continued to strike the prisoner after he dropped any weapons and posed no threat.”
In June 2020, Darnell McMillian died in a cell after a lieutenant at Donaldson sprayed so many chemical agents into the cell that he died. ADOC records confirm that after the use of force, Mr. McMillian was “non-verbal and unresponsive” and he was pronounced dead an hour later.
Donaldson has been the site of several homicides with reports of poor management and security conditions, and there are constant reports of abusive treatment and oversight.