William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility

Coordinates: 33°30′50.17″N 87°11′5.23″W / 33.5139361°N 87.1847861°W / 33.5139361; -87.1847861
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William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility
LocationBessemer, Alabama
Security classmaximum
Managed byAlabama Department of Corrections

William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility is an Alabama Department of Corrections prison for men located in unincorporated Jefferson County, Alabama, near Bessemer.[1] It came to national prominence after the Casey White prison escape.


The prison opened as the West Jefferson Correctional Facility in 1982.[1] On January 12, 1990, corrections officer William E. Donaldson was stabbed and killed by an inmate. The prison was later renamed in honor of officer Donaldson.[citation needed] Originally the prison had a capacity for 700 inmates in dormitory housing and 16 inmates in individual prison cells; the capacity increased as expansions opened.[1]

In 1996, according to Joe Hopper, the commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, the system's prison guard shortage was the most acute at Donaldson during that year. In that year the prison housed around 1,400 prisoners, with 207 prison guards watching them.[2]

Donaldson was the main setting of the documentary film The Dhamma Brothers, which chronicles the establishment of a Vipassana meditation program for prisoners.[3]


As of 2010 the facility can house 1,492 prisoners. The Alabama Department of Corrections classifies Donaldson as a maximum security prison. The agency uses Donaldson to house inmates who have multiple or repeated violent offenses and who ADOC cannot easily manage. Hundreds of offenders who are housed at Donaldson have life without parole sentences. The prison includes a segregation unit for 300 inmates; Donaldson's segregation unit is the largest unit in the State of Alabama.

The correctional facility came under media scrutiny in 2022 after 7 inmates died within the span of one week.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Donaldson Correctional Facility Archived 2010-03-18 at the Wayback Machine." Alabama Department of Corrections. Retrieved on October 8, 2010.
  2. ^ Poovey, Bill. "Corrections commissioner says state prisons need new guards." Associated Press at the Times Daily. Thursday October 24, 1996. Region 3B. Retrieved from Google News (7 of 18) on October 9, 2010.
  3. ^ Brown, Jack. "Cinema Dope: Fedora the Explorer Archived 2014-07-29 at the Wayback Machine." Valley Advocate. Thursday May 29, 2008. Retrieved on October 9, 2010.
  4. ^ "7th Donaldson prison inmate dead in span of 1 week: 57-year-old found unresponsive dies at hospital". al. 2022-07-12. Retrieved 2022-07-13.

External links[edit]

33°30′50.17″N 87°11′5.23″W / 33.5139361°N 87.1847861°W / 33.5139361; -87.1847861