Inmates, officials differ on key aspect of prison riot, but both agree violence could spread to other facilities

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ATMORE, Ala. (WHNT) - After two stabbings in just a few days, inmates inside Holman tell WHNT News 19 that overcrowding unfairly puts them in dangerous situations. Governor Robert Bentley visited Holman Tuesday morning.

He agreed.

"Part of the prison sentence is punishment," Bentley told the media, "We know that. But you've got to protect people. Their lives have to be protected."

Inmates say they wanted to raise their concerns to Bentley, but the prison emptied out the dorm where Friday night's riot occurred before he came to tour.

Inmates in another dorm tell us they were made to lay face down in their bunks by CERT teams with shotguns.

The biggest difference in the official treatment of the incident and the accounts of inmates comes in the discussion of Warden Carter Davenport.

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Both Governor Bentley and Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn took time to commend Warden Davenport.

Davenport was stabbed in the rioting incident, thought not gravely wounded.

Inmates say he helps create the culture of violence in Holman. Davenport was once warden of St. Clair Correctional Facility. Even then, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) was calling for him to step down because of increased violence in the facility under his watch.

The EJI report from June 12, 2014 detailed the violent conditions:

Last week, Jodey Waldrop became the third inmate to be murdered at St. Clair Correctional in the last ten months. It was the fifth murder in the last thirty months. There have been dozens of nearly fatal stabbing incidents or assaults in recent months and there is a great deal of tension and frustration at the facility.

Our news partners at also identified Davenport's connection to violence against inmates back in 2014, detailing a time he punched a handcuff inmate in the head. He took a two-day suspension for it.

Inmates at facilities across the state specifically cited Davenport's record of violence and inability to keep them safe in conversations with WHNT News 19.

However, they also say the problems can't be boiled down to one person.

An inmate at a different facility, whose identity we confirmed, tells us, "The problem with Holman is everywhere."

He spent time in Holman before being moved. He adds, "The problem down there is not being addressed internally, and these guys are crying out, 'Hey, we need help.'" He says the inmates don't have a functional grievance process.

For the governor's part, he continues to focus in on the dangers of overcrowding. He wants to build four new prisons, much larger ones, to help eliminate those concerns.

He says without more space, "It's not going to get better; it's going to get worse."

The inmate from the other facility says where he's at, inmates are more wary, because Holman's prisoners typically have longer sentences and less incentive to stay in line. But when we asked him if he believes a similar incident could happen where he's at right now, he told us, "I can't say that it's not going to happen here, because if you've got administration coming in there and putting their hands on inmates, it could very well happen."

The governor shares that concern, "What happened here on Friday night will occur in other places."

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