Inmate 'Baked To Death' In Prison Cell, Federal Lawsuit Says

By Jason Hall

December 17, 2022

Photo: Alabama Department of Corrections

An Alabama inmate was allegedly "baked" to death in a prison cell described by his family in a federal wrongful death lawsuit as being "hotter than three hells," NBC News reports.

Thomas Lee Rutledge, 44, died of hyperthermia on December 7, 2020, a lawsuit filed by his sister in U.S. District Court in the northern District of Alabama states.

Rutledge was reported to have had a body temperature of 109 degrees when he was found unresponsive in the mental ward at the William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama, the lawsuit states, citing the Jefferson County Coroner's report on the inmate's death.

The amended complaint filed on November 30 accuses prison staff, wardens and contractors who worked on the prison's heating and boiler system -- all of whom are listed as defendants -- of committing "deliberate indifference and malice" in relation to Rutledge's death.

The lawsuit alleged that the prison had implemented a new air conditioning system and controls in 2019 and 2020, but the T Unit, where Rutledge was being held, was excluded from the project.

The lawsuit states that HVAC company P&M Mechanical and its subcontractors “negligently or wantonly damaged or destroyed the thermostatic controls for T Unit" during the renovations, which led to the excruciatingly hot temperatures where Rutledge was located.

The lawsuit states, "after these controls were disabled, the flow of hot water through the coils that heat the air that is supplied to T Unit by the air handler was unregulated, resulting in a situation of continuous, unregulated heating to T Unit.”

P&M Mechanical Inc. has denied Rutledge's death was caused by any actions committed during its renovations and claimed it didn't have sufficient information to admit or deny any allegations of indifference or malice from prison workers and maintenance personnel.

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