2 Alabama corrections officer on leave, investigation underway after inmate deaths

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WKRG) — Two Alabama corrections officers are on mandatory leave and an investigation is underway after two inmates died in Alabama Correctional Facilities.

The Alabama Department of Corrections Intelligence and Investigations Division (I&I) is investigating the deaths of 55-year-old Michael Smith of Fairfield and 48-year-old Willie Leon Scott of Birmingham.

Smith was serving an undisclosed sentence at Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton, Ala. He died on Dec. 5 when he was taken off life support at Dale Medical Center after an alleged “use of force” incident on Nov. 30. His cause of death is pending final autopsy results and the findings from I&I’s ongoing investigation. Following notification of Smith’s death, two corrections officers were placed on mandatory leave while the I&I investigates the case.

Scott was serving a life sentence without parole out of Jefferson County for murder. He was pronounced dead on Dec. 6 at Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery. His injuries were the result of an incident that occurred on Dec. 4 at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. The circumstances related to Scott’s death are also the subject of an ongoing I&I investigation.

As a result of these deaths, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn has established an internal task force to examine inmate-on-inmate violence as well as alleged excessive use of force by staff. 

“My department is taking swift and substantive action to create safer working and living conditions, better ensure policy adherence, and deter unacceptable behavior by both inmates and ADOC staff,” ADOC Commissioner Dunn said.

“To address use of force concerns, we are implementing an action plan and dispatching ADOC’s Training and Professional Development Division instructors to teach an on-the-job procedure refreshment course within our prisons to our correctional officers,” said Matthew Brand, ADOC Associate Commissioner of Administrative Services. “This action plan also integrates and expands ADOC’s Training, Professional Development, and Leadership Academy.”

“As with any case, we fully are committed to thoroughly and impartially investigating all the facts and allegations surrounding any inmate’s death,” said Arnaldo Mercado, ADOC I&I Director. “Upon completion of these investigations, the I&I Division will refer these matters to the appropriate district attorney’s office for review and consideration. We hold each member of our staff to the highest standards of law enforcement.  Any ADOC employee who commits a violation will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

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