On March 25, 2019, Christopher Caldwell, an inmate at Limestone Correctional Facility in Alabama, was shackled and taped to a bucket for five days.
Caldwell was transferred to Limestone from a coveted work release center. Because he was suspected of smuggling contraband, on entry to Limestone, he underwent entry procedures that included several body cavity searches, metal detectors, and inspection by drug-detecting dogs. Yet, once Caldwell was in his cell he was shackled from his wrists, belly, and ankles, which prevented him from raising his hands above his waist; his pant legs were taped up.
When he was placed in his cell, guards told him that his restraints would not come off until he “shat six times” in the bucket, a practice referred to informally at Limestone Correctional Facility as “bucket detail.” Caldwell’s cell did not have running water; when he would ask for help, guards would either threaten him or ignore him.
Another inmate, Daniel Bolden, has come forward to corroborate Caldwell’s account, talking about how he (Bolden) was traumatized by having to eat like a dog due to similar restraining shackles. He was forced to sleep with the bucket of his urine and feces next to him and was not permitted to shower.
As Truthout reported, if proven, the conduct alleged would violate constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Yet “bucket detail” is consistent with a history of abuse and torture at Limestone: In 2017, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that a similar practice, involving use of the facility’s infamous “hitching post,” was unconstitutional. “A similar battle over the constitutionality of bucket detail could be on the horizon,” Truthout reported.
Beyond coverage by Truthout, reporting on the mistreatment of Caldwell, Bolden, and other Alabama inmates with experiences similar to theirs has been limited to a local newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, the local NBC affiliate (WSFA), and Unheard Voices, a nonprofit organization that advocates for prisoners across the US. The Unheard Voices blog reported that Limestone Correctional Facility administrators had ordered an end to the practice of “bucket detail” due to public pressure on the Alabama Department of Corrections.
Ella Fassler, “People in Alabama Prisons Are Shackled to Buckets for Days on End” Truthout, May 5, 2019, https://truthout.org/articles/people-in-alabama-prisons-are-shackled-to-buckets-for-days-on-end/.
Andrew J. Yawn, “4 Days in Chains, 3 Bowel Movements in a Bucket: Alabama Inmate ‘Dehumanized’ by Contraband Search,” Montgomery Advertiser, May 23, 2019, https://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com/story/news/2019/05/23/bucket-detail-4-days-chains-3-bowel-movements-alabama-inmate-dehumanized-contraband-search-limestone/3771764002/.
Nikki Davenport, “Exposure Halts ‘Bucket Detail’ Practice while ADOC Retaliation Continues,” Unheard Voices O.T.C.J., May 11, 2019, https://unheardvoicesotcj.wordpress.com/2019/05/11/exposure-halts-bucket-detail-practice/
Student Researcher: Yolanda Meza (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: James J. Dean (Sonoma State University)