Last week, a federal grand jury charged former Alabama Department of Corrections lieutenant Mohammad Jenkins with obstructing justice and using excessive force against two men incarcerated at Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama.
One of those men, Victor Russo, died after then-Lt. Jenkins repeatedly struck him 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 on February 25, 2022.
The indictment alleges that Mr. Jenkins knowingly falsified an incident report about the event and “engaged in misleading conduct” toward ADOC and FBI agents who interviewed him about his use of force on Mr. Russo.
Two months before the assault on Mr. Russo, the indictment alleges that Mr. Jenkins used excessive force against another incarcerated man identified as D.H. On November 29, 2021, Mr. Jenkins allegedly sprayed D.H. with chemical spray multiple times, struck him with a can of chemical spray, and hit him.
Complaints about Mohammad Jenkins abusing men incarcerated at Donaldson extend back years. Dozens of lawsuits charge Mr. Jenkins and other correctional officers with excessive force. One suit filed in 2015 alleged that Mr. Jenkins and several other officers beat and abused compliant prisoners while they were handcuffed and repeatedly slammed a handcuffed man’s head into a wall. ADOC settled the suit in 2021, according to court records.
EJI has investigated numerous reports from prison staff, people who are incarcerated, and family members identifying Mr. Jenkins as a member of a group of officers at Donaldson who have abusively beaten incarcerated men, attacked men with chemical agents while they were handcuffed and posed no danger, and forced them to parade naked around the prison.
Steven Davis died in 2019 after officers at Donaldson sprayed him with mace and struck him repeatedly in the head. Numerous witnesses told Justice Department investigators that correctional officers continued to strike Mr. Davis even after he posed no threat.
ADOC has not appointed a senior warden to replace Gwendolyn Givens, who retired after she was placed on mandatory leave in May 2022, according to public records.
In 2022, at least eight people were killed while they were incarcerated at Donaldson —the most in any Alabama prison in a single year in the state’s history.