Ala. moving 600 inmates from crowded, deteriorating prison

The decision to close the William C. Holman Correctional Facility came after officials learned the sewer, electrical and water systems required daily repair in dangerous conditions


Mike Cason
Alabama Media Group

ATMORE, Ala. — William C. Holman Correctional Facility, a 51-year-old prison with a violent history, is partially closing because of deteriorating underground utilities, requiring the transfer of more than 600 inmates in a prison system already holding 170% of the inmate population it was built for.

ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn announced the move this morning.

Alabama is closing the William C. Holman Correctional Facility, a prison with a history of violence and overcrowding. (Photo/TNS)
Alabama is closing the William C. Holman Correctional Facility, a prison with a history of violence and overcrowding. (Photo/TNS)

Alabama’s death row and the state’s execution chamber will remain at Holman. Death row inmates will move into a section of the prison now used for restrictive housing that has independent power, water, sewage systems, Dunn said.

Today’s announcement adds strain to an overcrowded and understaffed prison system plagued by a level of violence that the U.S. Department of Justice alleged in April creates conditions that violate the Constitution.

There are 166 death row inmates at Holman, including 21 who have already been moved from Donaldson Correctional Facility in Jefferson County as part of the realignment required by the closing of Holman’s main facility.

About 150 of Holman’s low-risk inmates serving life without parole will move into a stand-alone dorm that has utilities separate from the main prison.

The prisoners who will move from Holman to other ADOC facilities include about 422 general population inmates and 195 restrictive housing inmates, Dunn said.

Dunn said ADOC will not release details and timing of the inmate transfers for security reasons.

Dunn said the ADOC is modifying and realigning staff to other prisons to accommodate the additional inmates. He said staff no longer needed at Holman would be reassigned to nearby facilities and that nobody would lose their job because of the closure.

Holman is the second prison to close in Alabama in two years. Draper Correctional Facility in Elmore County, which was 79 years old, closed in 2018 because of deteriorating conditions.

Dunn said plans to close Holman have been in the works since 2018. But he said the decision to partially close the prison immediately came just a few weeks ago because of increasing problems with the tunnel that houses the prison’s electrical, water, and sewer systems. Dunn said daily repairs are required and that the conditions are hazardous for workers who enter the tunnel.

Dunn said the decision to hasten the closing of Holman was solely because of the deterioration and not related to the level of violence at the prison.

Dunn acknowledged to state legislators last week that the level of violence in Alabama prisons remained unacceptably high months after the DOJ report, which found that the number of assaults, sexual abuse, and prisoner deaths were excessive and that overcrowding and severe under-staffing exacerbated the problems.

According to the ADOC’s October 2019 statistical report, Alabama prisons housed 21,081 inmates in facilities designed for 12,412, an occupancy rate of 170%.

The prison population has grown by about 1,000 inmates over the last year after several years of declines.

Correctional officer staffing had dropped to as low as about one-third of recommended levels. The ADOC is under a federal court order to add 2,200 officers over the next two years.

Dunn said last week the ADOC has added a net gain of 255 officers in the last year. The ADOC is requesting a $42 million increase in its budget next year.

The ADOC and the Gov. Kay Ivey administration are seeking proposals from companies to finance and build three new men’s prisons that the state would lease and operate. Dunn said the ADOC expects to receive proposals by the end of April.

Preliminary estimates are for the prisons to cost about $900 million.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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