Alabama man ‘roasted to death’ in cell – NBC New York (47)

MONTGOMERY — A federal lawsuit against Alabama prison officials claims an inmate “was roasted to death” in an overheated cell two winters ago.

Thomas Lee Rutledge died of hyperthermia on December 7, 2020 at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer. Rutledge had a core temperature of 109 degrees when he was found unresponsive in the mental health cell, according to the lawsuit, which was filed by the man’s sister and names prison staff, guards and contractors as accused.

Rutledge “literally burned to death in his cell from excessive heat generated by the prison heating system,” according to an amended lawsuit filed November 30. The lawsuit alleges that prison staff knew about the mental health unit’s heating system problems before his death.

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

According to the lawsuit, Rutledge’s day of death was mild, with highs in the 1940s and lows in the 1930s.

“He was housed in a mental health ward, where inmates were confined to their cells 24 hours a day, including eating and washing in their cells. His death was the direct result of the willful indifference or malice of correctional officers, Donaldson correctional officers and custodial staff, and the negligence and/or recklessness of the contracting entities,” the lawsuit states.

He added that an investigator who was on the wing that night after Rutledge’s death commented in a taped interview that when he opened the door to a tray to speak to another inmate, he was doing ” hotter than three hells” and it felt like “when (you’re) taking something out of the oven and it hits you in the face.”

The US Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the state over prison conditions and cited the death from hyperthermia in a filing last year as an example of the “serious risks that unsafe prison conditions pose to the men of Alabama”.

Although Alabama has acknowledged problems with its prison system, it rejects the Justice Department’s claim that the conditions are unconstitutional. The Justice Department lawsuit is expected to go to trial in 2024.

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