Daphne family reportedly extorted by prisoners ‘hopeful’ about prison reform talks

Baldwin County

DAPHNE, Ala. (WKRG) — With lawmakers discussing prison reform in Montgomery this week, a Baldwin County family who has previously shared the experience with prison extortion says they’re happy to see movement.

Ryan Rust died at Holman Prison in 2018, according to the Alabama Department of Corrections. His death was ruled a suicide.

For almost two years before that, his father Jeff and sister Harmony say they were extorted out of about $24,000 through threats they received from inmates’ contraband cellphones.

“Word got around fast that Ryan had a source,” said Harmony. “Once they found out he had income, it was constant, he was constantly getting threatened. He’s like look I’m gonna get hurt if you don’t do this.”

The Department of Corrections has previously told us “Correctional leaders across country know that the presence of cell phones within correctional facilities is one of the most — if not the most — dangerous threats we face.”

According to the investigation the Department of Justice launched into the Alabama DOC, Alabama Prisons “fail adequately to prevent the introduction of illegal contraband” and also “violate the Constitution” by failing “to provide adequate protection from prisoner-on-prisoner violence” among other things.

In Montgomery, lawmakers are in special session working on a series of bills to build new prisons and update existing ones.

Lawmakers hope to have the special session wrapped up by the end of this week.  

Back in Baldwin County, the Rusts know it’s too late for them — but they’re hoping changes really do happen.

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