Montgomery, Alabama — A federal lawsuit against Alabama corrections officials alleges that an inmate “cooked to death” in a hot prison cell two winters ago.

Thomas Lee Rutledge died of hyperthermia on December 7, 2020, at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer. Rutledge’s internal temperature was 109 degrees when he was found unresponsive in the mental health cell, according to the lawsuit, which was filed by his sister and named prison employees, wardens and contractors as defendants.

A dated photo shows the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama

Alabama Department of Corrections

According to an amended complaint filed on November 30, “Rutledge was literally starved to death in his cell by the extreme heat generated by the prison’s heating system.” Death.

The Alabama Department of Corrections did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

According to the lawsuit, the weather on the day Rutledge died was mild with outdoor highs in the mid-40s Fahrenheit and lows in the low 30s.

“He was housed in a mental health ward, where inmates were confined to their cells round-the-clock, including eating and bathing in their cells. His death was caused by prison officers, corrections officers, and deliberate indifference or malfeasance.” was a direct result of the negligence and/or arbitrariness of the maintenance personnel at Donaldson, and the contractor entities,” the lawsuit states.

It states that an investigator present in the ward that evening after Rutledge’s death remarked in a recorded interview that when he opened a tray door to speak with another inmate, it was “more than three hells”. hot” and felt like “when you (have) taken something out of the oven and it hits your face.”

The US Department of Justice has an ongoing lawsuit against the state over prison conditions, and in a court filing last year cited the death from hyperthermia as an example of “serious risks posed by the dangerous conditions in Alabama’s prisons for men.” has been done in

While Alabama has acknowledged challenges to its prison system, it disputes the Justice Department’s claim that the conditions are unconstitutional. The DOJ’s case is expected to go to trial in 2024.

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