By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
Montgomery, Ala. — The Alabama Department of Corrections is closing part William C. Holman Correctional Facility because of several maintenance issues, including essential power, water and sewer services.
Commissioner Jeff Dunn said plans to decommission the facility were already made in August 2018 but had to be accelerated because of the increasing risk involved with maintaining an underground utility tunnel.
“About three weeks ago was when we learned that it was taking daily interventions by our maintenance staff to go down and ensure that the equipment in the tunnel was working,” Dunn said this morning. “At that point because of that and the dilapidated nature of the tunnel the risk of going down there was increasing. It became obvious to me that it was not sustainable and we had to accelerate our plans.”
As a result, about 617 inmates from Holman in Escambia County will be relocated to other ADOC facilities. About 422 of those inmates are general population and 195 are restrictive housing inmates.
There are sections of the Holman facility that have their own sperate power, water and sewage utilities and they will remain open to house some inmates.
About 150 of Holman’s low-risk inmates serving life without parole sentence will be moved to a stand alone dorm that operates on a separate utility system, Dunn said.
In addition to the 150 low-risk inmates, Holman’s current population of 145 death row inmates, as well as 21 additional death row inmates who were transferred from Donaldson Correctional Facility Tuesday night will continued to be housed in Holman.
The execution chamber at Holman will remain operational, Dunn said.
The facility’s tag and clothing plant will also remain operational and inmates will be able to continue their work there.
Dunn said that the process of transferring the 617 inmates begins today. Where the inmates will be transferred to depends on their classification levels.
Dunn could not provide an exact date of when these transfers will happen or when they will be completed but weekly updates will be provided on the department’s website every Tuesday.
To accommodate the influx of inmates into other facilities, Dunn said modifications will be made.
“The reality is that this is going to place some additional stress on the rest of the system,” Dunn said. “That’s unavoidable but we’re working to mitigate that stress.”
Dunn said the reason for the accelerated condition of Holman’s utilities is a result of continued “under-resourcing in the department particularly with respect to maintenance of the facilities.”
“That’s really the bottom line,” Dunn said. “It’s just deteriorated over time.”
Dunn said the dilapidated nature of Holman highlights the need to build three new male prisons, as laid out in Gov. Kay Ivey’s prison reform plan.
“We are now projecting upwards of $800 million in deferred maintenance costs alone,” Dunn said. “This unavoidable issue reinforces the critical importance of Governor Ivey’s transformative and necessary plan to build three new correctional facilities.”
Failing infrastructure at most of the state’s prisons was documented in a 2017 report that detailed multiple issues, including fire safety and electrical system concerns.
The roughly 1,100-page report highlighted the worst problems at each prison and made a case for then-Gov. Robert Bentley’s proposal to borrow $800 million to build four mega facilities. The engineering and architectural firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood created the report under a nearly $500,000 contract, the Decatur Daily reported in 2017.
The report listed priority areas that should be addressed at each prison. Holman had a lengthy list, including the maintenance area, several towers, four general population dormitories and seven death row dormitories.
The report doesn’t say which prisons should be closed, but gave overviews of each and some general assessments systemwide, the Decatur Daily reported:
“Based on the facility assessments, interviews with staff and internal interviews with utility providers, we have recognized a systemic lack of operational expertise and manpower to make the corrections necessary to bring the facilities up to meet current standards. In numerous facilities, the water and sewer systems are beyond repair and need to be replaced.”
• “Extensive defects in electrical safety exist throughout the system.”
• Except at six major facilities, “the perimeter security measures at ADOC facilities are significantly under par.”
That no facility has fully functional fire alarms was another highlighted concern.