WASHINGTON – Donald Wilson, a former corrections officer at the White County Jail in Sparta, Tenn., was sentenced today in federal court in Nashville to 33 months in prison for violating the civil rights of an inmate. Wilson will be on federal supervised release for two years after his release from prison.
Wilson was the administrator and senior corrections officer at the White County Jail from November 2002 to September 2004. He was convicted at trial of subjecting an inmate to cruel and unusual punishment by confining the inmate in a small holding cell amid human waste. This included requiring the inmate to be physically restrained continuously even while in his cell, 12 or more hours in a strait jacket each day, for a period of approximately three weeks in May 2004, a violation of federal civil rights laws.
In addition to Wilson, White County corrections officer Stanley Hawkins was convicted of subjecting the same inmate to cruel and unusual punishment by beating the inmate and throwing a chemical agent into the his cell as retribution for an earlier misconduct incident. Defendant Hawkins’s sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 27, 2007.
“This defendant violated the public’s trust and broke faith with the proud history of integrity and professionalism in law enforcement,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This prosecution demonstrates the Justice Department’s commitment to aggressively pursuing law enforcement officials who willfully abuse those entrusted to their custody.”
“When inmates are confined to correctional institutions, those charged with their security are expected to abide by the Constitution and the rule of law in carrying out their duties,” said Craig Morford, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. “When an officer violates those duties by illegally abusing a prisoner, it is our duty to prosecute that officer in order to punish that illegal conduct, to deter others from engaging in similar conduct, and to preserve the public trust that honest, law-abiding officers deserve. We take seriously our duty to preserve the civil rights of all people, and remain committed to our long history of vigorously prosecuting civil rights offenses,” said Morford.
The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as those laws that prohibit the willful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials. The Division has compiled a significant record on criminal civil rights prosecutions. During the past six years, the Department of Justice has convicted nearly 50% more defendants for official misconduct than during the preceding six years.