Alabama Department of Corrections officials confirmed Tuesday that DOC investigators who previously worked out of Atmore Community Work Center will soon begin carrying out some of their duties from a leased building on Atmore’s Main Street.
Bob Horton, public information manager for the state prison system, made the confirmation in an emailed reply to a request from Atmore News for a response to rumors of the move.
“The Alabama Department of Corrections will lease an office in Atmore for investigators assigned to the DOC Southern Region Investigations and Intelligence Division,” Horton said. “Investigators will use the office for administrative operations.”
The main reason for the relocation, he said, is the impending closure of the local work release center, which state prison officials have announced will be shut down by the end of this week. The DOC detectives will likely begin using the office, at 109 North Main Street, within the next several days.
“DOC investigators were working out of the Atmore Community Work Center, but since the facility is closing at the end of November, they will relocate to the downtown office sometime in December,” he said.
The DOC spokesman denied reports and rumors that inmates in handcuffs or shackles would be shuttled to and from area corrections facilities to the new suite of offices.
“(Investigators) will continue conducting inmate investigations at correctional facilities,” he said. “There are no plans to bring inmates to the administrative office.”
In response to the DOC move, Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce President Bub Gideons, who said he heard that the state had taken a 10-year lease on the property, issued the following statement:
“Downtown Atmore used to be a bustling center of commerce and local culture. It can be again if we help small retail businesses to flourish there. There are as many as 300,000 vehicles a month which drive through Atmore. We are trying to use this fact to engage boutiques, gift shops, restaurants, etc. to move into our quaint (two-block) downtown area. Traffic is a necessity for most businesses. We also have been engaged over the last few years trying to save our historic Strand Theatre.
“In the past we have been successful in keeping out businesses like liquor stores and tattoo parlors. However, yesterday (Monday) the Chamber office was visited by two detectives with the Department of Corrections of the State of Alabama. They informed us that a storefront on our Main Street will now be used as an office for state prison investigators.
“Of all the vacant buildings on this end of Escambia County, someone in their wisdom felt like a curbside retail location in our historic downtown was the best place for the headquarters of one of our State Prison Detective agencies where they do interrogation of guards accused of impropriety.
“I disagree this is either an appropriate or logical place for such an office. As the President of the Atmore Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director for Pride of Atmore (Save the Strand) I object to this use of our retail store fronts. Isn’t it bad enough we have building owners who allow the buildings to sit with eyesores in the front windows for decades, burned buildings falling apart – but now we have detective administrative offices?
“The kicker is we were told they had signed a 10-year lease. I only speak for myself when I say this cannot be in the best interest of rebuilding downtown Atmore.
“The mission of the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce has always been to promote the business, economic and cultural environment of Atmore creating an enhanced quality of life for our citizens.
“This is just a bad idea, especially if we are locked in for the long term.”