MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) Commissioner Jeff Dunn today announced immediate actions he is taking to significantly mitigate the risk of use of force incidents in Alabama’s correctional facilities, including the formation of a new internal task force, “Tactics and Techniques” reinforcement training programs, health and wellness interventions for correctional officers and staff, additional inmate rehabilitation programs and resources, and the reexamination of enhanced surveillance measures such as the possible use of body cameras by on-duty correctional officers. Dunn has directed the new internal task force to integrate these actions into the ADOC’s three-year strategic plan.
ADOC’s Intelligence and Investigations Division (I&I) is investigating an alleged use of force incident that resulted in an inmate’s death yesterday evening. Today, I&I law enforcement agents were sent to investigate the death of 55-year-old Ventress Correctional Facility inmate Michael Smith of Fairfield, who, after being removed from life support, succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at Dale Medical Center on December 5, 2019 at approximately 7:34 p.m. CST. Smith’s cause of death is pending final autopsy results and the findings from I&I’s ongoing investigation.
“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,” said ADOC Commissioner Dunn.
“We are implementing an action plan and dispatching ADOC’s Training and Professional Development Division instructors to teach a procedure refreshment course to our correctional officers,” said Matthew Brand, ADOC’s associate commissioner of administrative services. “This action plan also integrates and expands ADOC’s Training, Professional Development, and Leadership Academy that provides new correctional officers with up to 12 weeks of intensive training.
“As with any case, we fully are committed to thoroughly and impartially investigating all the facts and allegations surrounding inmate Smith’s death,” said Arnaldo Mercado, ADOC’s I&I director. “Upon completion of our investigation, the I&I Division will refer this matter to the district attorney’s office for their review and consideration. We hold each member of our staff to the highest standards of law enforcement, and if this case indicates that an ADOC employee committed any violations, they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. As this currently is an ongoing investigation, we ask that I&I be allowed to properly conduct its investigation in the best interests of all parties involved.”
Following notification of inmate Smith’s death, Commissioner Dunn directed two corrections officers to be placed on mandatory leave, effective immediately, while I&I’s law enforcement agents investigate the case. While details regarding Smith’s case are limited at this time, additional information will be made available at the conclusion of the investigation.