Holman Correctional Facility

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Holman Correctional Facility
Seal of the Alabama Department of Corrections.svg
LocationAtmore, Alabama
Security classMaximum
OpenedDecember 1969
Managed byAlabama Department of Corrections
WardenTerry Raybon

William C. Holman Correctional Facility is an Alabama Department of Corrections prison located in Atmore, Alabama.[1] The facility is along Alabama State Highway 21, 9 miles (14 km) north of Atmore in southern Alabama.[2]

The facility was originally built to house 581 inmates. Holman held as many as one thousand prisoners.[3] It has 632 general population beds, 200 single cells, and 170 death row cells, for a capacity of 1002 maximum through minimum-custody inmates, including a large contingent of life without parole inmates. The death chamber is located at Holman, where all state executions are conducted. Holman also operates two major correctional industries within the facility's perimeter: a license plate plant and a sewing factory.[4]

Holman Correctional Facility was the subject of a documentary on MSNBC entitled Lockup: Holman Extended Stay (2006).[5] The warden at Holman Correctional Facility at the time was Grantt Culliver, who served from 2002 from 2009.[6] The current warden is Terry Raybon.[4]

In 2016 the prison had the reputation of being the most violent in the country, due to overcrowding and understaffing. That year the Department of Justice initiated an investigation at the prison into conditions for both prisoners and officers.[7]


Opened during December 1969, Holman originally had a basic capacity for 520 medium-custody inmates, including a death row cellblock with a capacity of 20. It was constructed for $5,000,000 during the administration of Governor Lurleen Wallace and Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner James T. Hagan. The prisoners of the old Kilby Prison were moved to Holman Prison. It was named in honor of a former warden, William C. Holman.[2]

Due in part to legislative rules creating long-term penalties for drug crimes, the prison population at Holman and other facilities began to climb in the 1970s. On Friday August 29, 1975, two U.S. federal district court judges, William Brevard Hand and Frank M. Johnson Jr., ordered Alabama authorities to stop sending any more prisoners to Holman, Fountain Correctional Facility, Draper Correctional Facility, and the Medical and Diagnostic Center, due to overcrowding; the four prisons, designed to hold 2,212 prisoners, were holding about 3,800.[8]

Since Holman opened, it gained a reputation for being the most violent prison in Alabama, a situation exacerbated by the years of overcrowding. In 1974 an employee was killed by an inmate with a knife. In 1985 a large riot occurred in which 22 men were taken hostage.[9]

Staff and prisoners said that after Grantt Culliver became the warden in 2002, violence decreased. This was covered in the documentary Lockup: Holman Correctional Facility (2006), which MSNBC produced. Hillary Heath, the inside producer of Lockup, said that it is difficult for reputations to die down, so Holman still has a reputation for violence.[10]

The city of Atmore annexed the land in the prison in 2008. The Alabama DOC asked for the city to annex the land.[11]

By 2016 violence had increased again. 2016 U.S. prison strike started here at Holman correctional facility and spread to more than 10 states. The prison strike wanted to increase wages for prison labor and improve conditions across prisons in the United States.

Riots broke out in protest against conditions in March 2016.[12][13] In the first riot fires were set in a prison dorm; both the warden and a prison guard sustained stab wounds.[14] An individual recorded portions of the riot on a cell phone and posted the recordings to social media sites.[15]

On September 1, 2016, Correctional Officer Kenneth Bettis died from a stab wound while performing his duties overseeing prisoners in the dining hall of the prison. Later that month, a group of corrections officers went on strike over safety concerns and overcrowding.[7] Prisoners refer to the facility as a "slaughterhouse," as stabbings are a routine occurrence.[16]

In late January 2020, the state announced most of the site would be closed due to severe deterioration of underground utilities that served the prison. Most inmates were moved from Holman to other facilities. However, death row and the execution chamber were to remain at Holman.[17]

In July, 2020, Department of Corrections Commissioner Jefferson Dunn provided an update to state legislators on the status of the state prison system. He stated that the current number of inmates being housed at Holman was 314 following the closure of much of the facility and relocation of many inmates.[18]


The Gulf Coast area, where Holman is located, often has temperatures of 100 °F (38 °C) and high humidity during summer. The prison administration has not installed air conditioning, so the prison has hundreds of industrial fans used for moving the air in an attempt to provide cooling. The hottest areas in the prison are the kitchen facilities.[10]

Staff shortages are made worse by absenteeism. On some days, as few as nine guards are on duty. Only two of the six towers on the perimeter are manned. Annual staff turnover is reported to be 60 percent.[7] As a result of a hiring freeze in 2014, mandatory overtime was commonly required for the guards.[19]

In December 2018, press reports indicated the facility had only 72 of the 195 guards needed for routine operations without officers on overtime.[20]


The prison has a capacity of over 800 prisoners.[21] The state's death row has a capacity of fifty-six but in early 2017 held almost two hundred men.[22]

Prisoner life[edit]

Hillary Heath, the inside producer of Lockup, said that when she asked prisoners to describe Holman, they used names like "The Slaughterhouse", "Slaughter Pen of the South", and "House of Pain", which referred to the frequent stabbings and violent attacks committed among the prisoners. The names "The Bottom" and "The Pit" refer to the prison's location in southern Alabama. One inmate said that, within the state, "you can't get any lower than this."[10]

Heath reported that Holman inmates made "julep," a homegrown whiskey, using water, sugar, and yeast. She described julep as a brown liquid with dark floating chunks, resembling raw sewage. She said its odor "was not as vile as I imagined", and it smelled like sourdough bread and prunes.[10]

Prisoners who commit indecent exposure violate rule #38, thus indecent exposure is referred to by inmates as "doing a '38'". Violating rule 38 of ADOC policy requires an inmate to attend sex addiction courses.[10]

Notable prisoners[edit]

Death row (does not include prisoners who were sent to Holman only for their executions):

  • Henry Francis Hays – Convicted of the murder of Michael Donald[23] – Alabama Institutional Serial #Z443 – Executed on June 6, 1997.[24]
  • Anthony Ray Hinton – Released after 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit.
  • Shonelle Jackson – Convicted of murder during the commission of a robbery.
  • Joe Nathan James Jr. – Convicted of a 1994 murder – Executed on July 28, 2022.
  • Courtney Lockhart – Convicted of the murder of Lauren Burk.
  • Walter McMillian – Released after 6 years on death row for a crime he did not commit.
  • Walter Leroy Moody – Convicted of the murder of Robert Smith Vance[25] – Alabama Institutional Serial #00Z613[26] – Executed on April 19, 2018. At age 83, he is the oldest Alabama death row inmate to be executed since that State reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
  • Devin Moore – Killed two police officers and a dispatcher at a police station after being arrested on suspicion of stealing a car.
  • Matthew Reeves – Convicted of murder in 1998 – Executed on January 27, 2022; executed despite having intellectual disabilities.
  • Daniel Lee Siebert – Alabama Institutional Serial #00Z475[27] – Died from cancer while in custody in 2008, he was known for challenging protocol.[28]
  • Thomas Warren Whisenhant – Serial killer who was convicted of murder in 1977 – Executed on May 27, 2010; at the time of his execution he was Alabama's longest serving death row inmate.[29]
  • Nathaniel Woods – Convicted of murder in 2005 – Executed on March 5, 2020; controversial execution due to widespread skepticism about the legitimacy of his guilty verdict.[30]
  • Robert Bryant Melson — Convicted for the murders of three fast food employees during a robbery in 1994. Executed on June 8, 2017.

Non-death row:

  • Bobby Frank Cherry – One of the Klan perpetrators of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, which killed four African-American girls.[31] He was convicted of the murders in 2002. On October 13, 2004, Cherry was transferred from Holman Prison to Atmore Community Hospital in Atmore.[32] Cherry died while in hospital custody on November 18, 2004.[33]
  • Bobby Ray Gilbert AKA "Snake" – Featured in three parts of MSNBC's documentary Lockup, (2006), filmed inside Holman prison.[34][35]
  • James Emery Paster – Was serving three life sentences at the prison for various robbery offenses in 1982. He was later extradited to Texas to stand trial for murder and was executed there in 1989.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2020 CENSUS - CENSUS BLOCK MAP (INDEX): Atmore city, AL" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2022-08-01. Holman Corr Faclty
  2. ^ a b "Annual Report Fiscal Year 2003." Alabama Department of Corrections. 33/84. Retrieved on August 15, 2010.
  3. ^ Alan, Blinder (15 March 2016). "Alabama Prison Uprisings Come as State Grapples With How to Fix System". New York Times. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Holman Correctional Facility." Alabama Department of Corrections. Retrieved on August 15, 2010.
  5. ^ Lockup: Holman Extended Stay, NBC News
  6. ^ "Former Holman warden takes serene outlook after 20 executions". Posted: Mar 18, 2010 9:32 AM CDT, Updated Mar 18, 2010 11:00 AM CDT. Retrieved on April 20, 2015
  7. ^ a b c Matthew Teague, " 'It's a bloodbath': staff describe life inside America's most violent prison", The Guardian, 21 October 2016; accessed 4 June 2017
  8. ^ "Court closes Alabama prison gates," St. Petersburg Times, 30 August 1975. 2A. Retrieved from Google Books (3 of 56) on July 5, 2011.
  9. ^ Treadwell, David (16 April 1985). "Warden Among Those Seized; Seven Injured : 22 Freed as Alabama Prison Riot Ends". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Lockup: Holman Correctional Facility, (News.msn.com/id/15952548/ns/NBC News_tv-documentaries/ Archive) NBC News, 11 December 2006, Retrieved on March 5, 2011.
  11. ^ Prestridge, Adam (2008-08-13). "City council annexes 7,000 acres". Atmore Advance. Retrieved 2022-08-01.
  12. ^ "Alabama prison on lockdown after riot, two stabbed" (Archive). Reuters. March 12, 2016. Retrieved on March 14, 2016.
  13. ^ "List of demands from men incarcerated at Holman Prison in Alabama " San Francisco Bayview. March 15, 2016. Retrieved on March 21, 2016.
  14. ^ "Warden, officer stabbed in Alabama prison riot". CNN. 12 March 2016.
  15. ^ "Inmates capture prison riot on camera." CNN. March 12, 2016.
  16. ^ Alabama Guards Stage Work Strike Months After Prisoner Uprising at Overcrowded Holman Facility. Democracy Now! September 28, 2016.
  17. ^ Benner, Katie (31 January 2020). "Plans for Alabama's Deadly Prisons 'Won't Fix the Horrors'". New York Times. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  18. ^ "State senators briefed on prison construction plans". Alabama Political Reporter. 2020-07-13. Retrieved 2020-07-24.
  19. ^ Kirby, Brendan (6 July 2014). "Some Alabama corrections officers make more in overtime than regular pay, records show". AL.com. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  20. ^ "Report: 60 percent of security jobs vacant at Alabama prison". Associated Press. Retrieved 19 December 2018.
  21. ^ "Annual Report Fiscal Year 2012" (Archive). Alabama Department of Corrections. facilities map, page 26.
  22. ^ Harress, Christophe (12 February 2017). "The architecture of violence in Alabama's prisons". AL.com. Retrieved 29 March 2017.
  23. ^ "Alabama pays Ohio for holding Klansman," Associated Press at The Tuscaloosa News. September 25, 1994. 8B. Retrieved from Google News (12 of 132) on March 3, 2011. Quote: "His son, Henry Hays, was sentenced to death for the Donald murder. He awaits an execution date at Holman Prison."
  24. ^ "Inmates Executed in Alabama Archived 2008-04-21 at the Wayback Machine." Alabama Department of Corrections. Retrieved on March 3, 2011.
  25. ^ "Moody Lawyer Quits." Associated Press at the Gadsden Times. B2. March 13, 1997. Retrieved from Google News (5 of 22) on March 3, 2011. Quote: "Moody, now at Holman Prison near Atmore, is serving seven federal life prison terms and was sentenced to death last month after the state trial in Birmingham."
  26. ^ "MOODY, WALTER LEROY JR." Alabama Department of Corrections. Retrieved on March 3, 2011.
  27. ^ "Inmates on Deathrow." Alabama Department of Corrections. February 9, 2007. Retrieved on March 3, 2011.
  28. ^ Hunter, Desiree. "Alabama death row inmate who challenged protocol dies." Associated Press at USA Today. April 23, 2008. Retrieved on March 3, 2011.
  29. ^ Kirby, Brendan (May 27, 2010). "Thomas Whisenhant executed for 1976 kidnapping, rape and murder". The Huntsville Times. Archived from the original on December 27, 2021. Retrieved December 27, 2021.
  30. ^ "Alabama executes inmate Nathaniel Woods". CNN.
  31. ^ "Church Bombing." Associated Press at WTVY. July 23, 2004. Retrieved on March 3, 2011.
  32. ^ "Cherry." Kansas City Star. October 15, 2004. Page 5. Retrieved on March 3, 2011. Quote: "Cherry, 74, was taken from Holman Prison to Atmore Community Hospital on Wednesday, according to Brian Corbett, a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Corrections."
  33. ^ "Birmingham Bomber Bobby Frank Cherry Dies in Prison at 74 (washingtonpost.com)". www.washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2016-03-14.
  34. ^ News-documentaries/t/lockup-holman-extended-stay/#.VuSD5NDqL7w Documentaries: Lockup: Holman Extended Stay, NBC News
  35. ^ "Who Is Bobby Ray Gilbert?", WAFF.com
  36. ^ Graczyk, Michael (September 20, 1989). "URGENT Former Elvis Impersonator Linked To Five Murders Executed In Texas". Associated Press. Retrieved October 3, 2021.

External links[edit]

External image
image icon Alabama's execution chamber

Coordinates: 31°08′03″N 87°26′59″W / 31.1343°N 87.4497°W / 31.1343; -87.4497