3 Alabama Prison Guards Indicted in Beating Death of Handcuffed Inmate Rocrast Mack, Serving 20 YEARS for Selling $10 Worth of Crack
Three Alabama prison guards were arrested by FBI agents on Monday following a federal grand jury indictment against the trio for the beating death of a handcuffed prisoner, a killing which they tried to cover up.
The Huffington Post reports that Michael Smith, age 37; Matthew Davidson, age 43; and Joseph Sanders, age 31, all former guards at Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton, are accused of beating 24-year-old Rocrast Mack to death and lying to state and federal investigators in an attempt to mislead them about the prisoner’s cause of death.
What makes this case all the more tragic is that Mack was serving a 20-year sentence for selling a measly $10 worth of crack to an undercover cop in 2009. Under federal sentencing guidelines at the time, crack, which is pharmacologically identical to the powder cocaine favored by whites and the wealthy, is subject to a 100: 1 sentencing disparity. For example, 1 gram of crack cocaine will result in the same sentence as 100 grams of powder cocaine.
The fatal beating occurred on August 4, 2010. Female prison guard Melissa Brown accused Mack of looking at her inappropriately as she made her evening rounds in the dorms of the overcrowded facility. Brown slapped Mack across the face, he struck her back, and at that point she called for help.
That’s when Smith, Davidson and Sanders kicked and beat Mack with their feet, hands and batons, including while the prisoner was handcuffed. He was rushed to a hospital in comatose condition and later died.
The three guards then conspired to fabricate a story in which they were acting in self-defense while trying to restrain an out-of-control inmate. The trio lied to state and federal investigators, claiming Mack had fought them and resisted attempts to restrain him.
Smith faces murder charges, with possible penalties ranging from life imprisonment to execution. Davidson faces up to 105 years in prison; Sanders could receive up to 75 years behind bars if convicted.
A Huffington Post investigation revealed that Mack’s death was not the “isolated incident” state officials initially said it was. Smith had been accused of brutality on multiple occasions, and reports of brutality by other guards at Ventress had apparently gone unchecked.
The facility is one of the most overcrowded in the state with the most overcrowded prisons in America. Ventress was at 225% of capacity at the time of Mack’s killings, not much higher than the 193% of capacity for all Alabama state prisons. The state’s prison population soared by 468% between 1977 and 2009, mostly due to the mass incarceration of non-violent drug offenders.
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