Alabama’s Culture of Prisoner Abuse Reaches to the Top
by David Reutter
Alabama’s prison system has such an engrained culture of abusing prisoners that guards and administrators need not fear serious career consequences; in fact, they can expect to be promoted with abuse flags in their files.
That culture was highlighted in an investigative report by AL.com. The report was based upon “hundreds of personnel documents” obtained from the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC), whose overcrowded prison system is under scrutiny by federal officials. PLN has previously reported on a federal probe at ADOC’s Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women [See: PLN, Sept. 2003, p.31].
Al.com’s report contained reported incidents in current ADOC warden’s file. Amongst rose was Carter Davenport, the warden at St. Clair Correctional Facility, ADOC’s second-most-violent prison.
Carter, a 24 year veteran, rose up the ranks as a guard. He was a captain at Tutwiler and was Deputy Warden at Camden Community Based Facility before becoming Warden at Easterling and Fountain Correctional Facilities. He became warden at St. Clair in 2010.
That year, St. Clair reported 23 assaults. In 2013, there were 101 assaults reported at the prison. ADOC attributes the rise in assault reports to a 2009 policy change that includes all prisoner-on-prisoner and prisoner-on-guard assaults into its figures.
While the policy change may contribute to the rise, one can only wonder whether Carter’s views about assaults are a factor in the increase. That attitude was on full view for his subordinates on April 13, 2012.
That day, Carter was in the segregation unit as a handcuffed prisoner was removed from his cell. In response to some choice words the prisoner directed at him, Carter punched the prisoner in the face. He called ADOC’s investigation administer and confessed his transgression. As a result of confession, there was no investigation, interview of the prisoner, and no record made of the injuries. Because the assault of the handcuffed prisoner was only a policy violation, Carter received a two-day suspension and remains Warden at St. Clair.
Davenport’s Deputy Warden, Eric Evans, also has a record of abusing prisoners. His record dates to 1995, which is when he was suspended for five days for assaulting a prison who hurled foul language at hi while being restrained. Evans was gain suspended in 2003 for six days for failing to report the use of force on a prisoner. Then, in 2006 he was suspended for two days as a result of lying about the disposition of radios seized during a shakedown.
Before he retired in 2013, warden Sylvester Folks raced up a record that exemplifies ADOC’s policy of rewarding ill-behaving guards. Folks received a 30 days suspension in 1993 for spreading rumors of sexual harassments by his supervisors. He was suspended for another 30 days in 1995 for failing to report the use of excessive and unnecessary force on a prisoner. Then, in 2008 he was demoted from warden at Holman Correctional Center for dating one of his female sergeants and conducting an unauthorized investigation of a male sergeant she had disputed with. When he retired, Folks was warden of the Bullock County Correctional Facility.
“A warden should have an impeccable record that commands respect from their staff and provides leadership,” said Daniel Vasquez, former warden of California’s San Quentin State Prison “If you have a blemished record, you’re not going to be able to do that.”