Four former Alabama corrections officers have been charged by the Justice Department with crimes including civil rights violations and obstruction of justice in the beating of an inmate in 2018, the New York Times reports. The case was announced less than a week after federal investigators issued a critical report on the use of excessive force in the state’s troubled prison system, a practice the report said was routine and violated the constitutional rights of prisoners. Former Sgt. Keith Finch, former officer Jordan Thomas, officer Kevin Blaylock and Sgt. Orlanda Walker had been working at the Bibb Correctional Facility in Brent, Al., 35 miles southeast of Tuscaloosa, when the assault took place in September 2018.
Prosecutors said Thomas, Blaylock and Finch struck a male inmate several times with batons while the prisoner was lying on the ground in the fetal position. The episode started after the prisoner ran out of his cell and was taken to the ground by officers, according to the indictment, which said that Thomas kicked the inmate and struck him in the head. Bibb Correctional Facility, which houses 1,800 inmates, was one of the prisons cited in the DOJ report on excessive force. The report was the latest disturbing glimpse at what life is like in the state’s overcrowded and understaffed prisons, which have drawn scrutiny from civil rights investigators at the Justice Department and prison reform advocates. Corrections officials have said they are taking steps to significantly mitigate the use of excessive force by prison guards. The steps include the creation of a violence reduction task force and refresher training for guards.