What You Need to Know About Holman, the Brutal Alabama Prison Where 2 Riots Just Broke Out


What is Holman? The William C. Holman Correctional Facility is one of the South's most brutal prisons.

Located near Atmore, in southern Alabama, the rusty, hulking structure houses 157 of the 183 people serving time on death row in the state.

What happened: On March 11, around 9:15 p.m., a riot broke out among the men incarcerated there. It started as a fight between two men, then spread. One corrections officer was stabbed, as was the warden, Carter Davenport. 

About 100 men then gained access to a hallway outside one of the housing units, where they started a fire and drew three correctional emergency response teams and multiple law enforcement agencies to the unit, according to AL.com.


The violence did not subside until 5 a.m. Both correctional employees are expected to make a full recovery. AL.com reports that no one else was hurt.

Is that all? No. On Monday, yet another riot broke out.

This time the spark was the 8:30 a.m. stabbing of an incarcerated man with a "makeshift weapon," according to WKRG. When corrections officers came to remove the man, about 70 other incarcerated men barricaded themselves in a dormitory, drawing yet another emergency response team to Holman.

Melissa Brown/AP

The uprising was over by 2:45 p.m., AL.com reports. Between the two riots, five men were dubbed ringleaders by the authorities, and have since been removed to a separate prison.

Why are the men of Holman rioting so much? The place, frankly, is a hellhole.

A brief 2014 MSNBC documentary segment shows the sweltering conditions to which people housed there are subjected. Incarcerated men are shown on camera rattling of Holman's various nicknames: The "House of Pain." The "Slaughter Pen of the South." "Dead Man Land." "The Bottom."

Since construction on the facility was completed in 1969, Holman has frequently suffered from severe overcrowding, according to an earlier NBC News documentary from 2006. It's a problem Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley acknowledged during a visit to Holman on Tuesday, after the riots:

Bentley's solution, by the way, is to build more prisons.

What do the men of Holman want? Prior to Gov. Bentley's visit, the men incarcerated at Holman sent a list of six demands to reporter Raven Rakia. She then published them on Medium. Here's what they said:

1. We inmates, at Holman Prison, ask for immediate federal assistance.

Rakia also provided a link to AL.com's brief explanation of Alabama's habitual felony offender laws, which basically tacks on staggering chunks of extra prison time for people who have past felony convictions.

But with minimal societal pressure — or knowledge — to ensure that rights and humane conditions for incarcerated people are maintained, the men of Holman face a stark challenge in getting their demands met.