ECSO part of 300-member task force in raid
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Alabama Department of Corrections agents and officers, backed by resources from numerous state, city and county agencies, conducted a joint law enforcement operation in an effort to find and remove contraband from the William C. Holman Correctional Facility near Atmore.
More than 300 law enforcement officers from DOC and 10 supporting agencies moved into the prison at 4:30 a.m., Thursday, April 18, as the inmates slept, and continued until late that night in the search for weapons, drugs and other items banned from prisons.
ADOC Director of Investigations and Intelligence Arnaldo Mercado said the operation, which covered the entire facility, was an overall success.
“Our ADOC team, assisted by officers from our partnering law enforcement agencies, found and removed considerable quantities of contraband,” Mercado said. “We inspected every inch of the facility and left no stone unturned.”
Recovered during the operation were 356 makeshift weapons, 91 grams of methamphetamine, 98 grams of marijuana, an undisclosed amount of cocaine, more than 400 assorted pills and 16 cell phones.
ADOC Deputy Commissioner of Operations Charles Daniels led the operation at the maximum-security prison, which has 870 inmates, including most of the state’s most violent. Agents with ADOC’s investigations and intelligence unit, along with correctional emergency response teams and correctional K-9 drug units took part in the operation.
“The ADOC is conducting these large-scale joint operations in a move to eradicate contraband, identify deficiencies and to take all necessary steps to reverse the trend of increased violence caused by illegal activity inside our prisons,” Daniels said. “We are going to do whatever is necessary to eliminate the contraband problem while sending a message to those who are responsible.
“Such criminal activity will not be tolerated, and anyone who is caught bringing illegal items into our prisons will be charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Agencies assisting ADOC during the sweep were Alabama Pardons and Paroles, Alabama Emergency Management Agency, Alabama Department of Transportation, Atmore police, Bay Minette police, Brewton police and sheriff’s offices in Escambia, Baldwin, Butler and Monroe counties.
Escambia County Sheriff Heath Jackson, who recently conducted a similar operation at the county jail, led a dozen deputies as part of the Holman operation. Jackson said the scope of the prison sweep was larger in which he and his officers had ever taken part.
“It was huge,” he said. “Holman is a Tier-5, maximum-security facility, with more than 800 inmates. We formed up early that morning, and it was a totally different ballgame for us. We had received a request for help from ADOC, and they bend over backwards to help us. We appreciate that, and any time we can return the favor, we’re glad to do it.”
The first-term sheriff said his unit did not have any problems with angry inmates. In fact, some appeared relieved to see the phalanx of law enforcement officers.
“My crew did not have any problems whatsoever,” Jackson said. “I felt like some of the inmates were glad to see us. They have to sleep there, and they can sleep a lot better after hundreds of weapons were seized.”
He added that the operation drove home two facts about the state’s penal institutions.
“It showed me, one, how under-funded our state prisons are,” he said. “Also, it showed me just how many folks are incarcerated in our prisons.”
Jackson also noted that the safety of the understaffed correctional officers was another byproduct of the search. (Holman has just 50 officers, roughly one for every 16 inmates.)
“The people who work for the system are also at risk, and we need to stand behind them,” he said. “We need to support these folks and to support legislation that makes our prisons safer, for inmates and corrections officers.”
Daniels said ADOC will continue to conduct the unannounced joint operations at other major correctional facilities in the future with assistance from other law enforcement agencies.