SPRINGVILLE, AL (WBRC) - A corrections officer at St. Clair Correctional Facility in Springville said he is outraged after an overnight incident in which an officer was stabbed by an inmate and hospitalized. The officer said more needs to be done to secure the prison, and he feels prison staff was dismayed that the CERT team (Correctional Emergency Response Team) did not come to the prison after the incident.
The officer said he and others on duty were first told the CERT team would be arriving at the prison.
"That made us feel more comfortable and safer because we knew these inmates that did this and hurt one of our guys and we were happy they were coming," he said. "The problem is, we waited and waited and they never showed up."
The Alabama Department of Corrections can deploy a CERT team to a prison to help regain control during disturbances or riots and to help assist with investigations. The officer, who reached out to WBRC, said the CERT team is trained to handle violent situations and has the numbers and resources to neutralize threats to officers.
"They show the inmates we're still in charge," he said. "When they didn't show up today, it's like the ADOC doesn't care about what's happening."
ADOC spokesperson Bob Horton said the prison is on lockdown until the investigation is complete and the prisoners involved are in segregation.
"Warden Dewayne Estes and his correctional officers were able to manage this morning's incident at the St. Clair Correctional Facility without the assistance from a Corrections Emergency Response Team," said Horton. "The Department of Corrections values its correctional officers and would not put them in danger, or at risk by not responding appropriately to a serious incident."
Horton also said cost is not a factor when deploying a CERT team in response to an incident.
The officer, who asked to not be named, said the incident occurred shortly before he began an overnight shift at the prison.
"I was told there was about eight of them surrounded by 150 inmates, so there's one problem, how bad we're outnumbered," said the officer.
Horton confirmed that some inmates inside the cell block did throw items at several officers who responded to the incident.
"The officers did not receive serious injuries and were able to detain all inmates involved and secure the cell block," said Horton.
The name of the officer stabbed has not been released, but the officer who reached out to WBRC said he's a great guy, one of the best officers at the prison.
The officer said the prison does not have enough staff to regularly search for contraband, like weapons, and gang members pose a serious security threat.
"We have several young gang members that don't care anything about authority," he described. "We tell them to do something and they tell us no. When it's one officer to 200-300 inmates, it's kind of hard to stand up to that."
Horton confirmed that gang activity is a concern at most custody level 5 prisons, including St. Clair.
"The Department of Corrections Investigations and Intelligence Division monitors gang related activity inside correctional facilities and has protocols in place for mitigating such activity," said Horton.
But the officer is hoping to draw attention to a volatile situation that feels out of control for the prison staff. He said the staff and administration at St. Clair Correctional are doing the best they can with limited resources, but he feels more needs to be done to prioritize officer safety.
"What's it going to take to get help in here?" he asked. "Is one of us going to have to get killed?"