Category: Alabama Prisons
An expert explains how issues from staffing to healthcare to climate change have contributed to a recent rise in deaths in prisons across the Gulf South. In Alabama, at least 22 people have died while incarcerated at the Donaldson Correctional Facility alone. Read more.
The U.S. Treasury said prison construction is a “generally ineligible” use of American Rescue Plan funds, but has not intervened in Alabama’s plans. Read more.
WBHM’s Mary Scott Hodgin Talks With Brittany Brown of the Gulf States Newsroom About Issues Plaguing Alabama and Mississippi Prisons.
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Commission on Reentry heard presentations Tuesday about the need for expanding housing assistance for those leaving prison as a way to reduce recidivism. The state currently provides no housing assistance for the majority of people who are leaving prison at the end of their sentences. Read more.
Construction will start early next year on the two 4,000-bed men’s prisons the Alabama Legislature approved after a rapid-fire, five-day special session last week.
The package of bills Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law late Friday includes the borrowing of up to $785 million for the two prisons and the use of $400 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act for the mega-prisons in central and south Alabama. A second phase of construction allows for a new women’s prison and renovations to three existing men’s prisons.
Prison proposals have floated around the State House for years, dying when they couldn’t overcome turf wars and pricetags.
So, what changed the attitudes of legislators this year?
“There was a recognition of need that I don’t think we’ve seen before,” Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, told Alabama Daily News. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — Gov. Kay Ivey and lawmakers celebrated Friday afternoon as the governor signed bills to spend $1.3 billion on two new 4,000-bed men’s prisons. A smaller women’s prison and renovations to some existing prisons will come later.
Ivey said that the building of the new prisons is the legally, fiscally and morally right thing as the state addresses its prisons crisis.
“Let me be clear, while more reform of the system can and does need to be addressed in the future – and I am committed to that as are many legislators – today’s bill signing on the construction part of this issue is a major step forward,” Ivey said. Read more.
Also in the Legislature:
Legislature, Ivey Approve Parole Change Bill
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature gave final passage to a bill that requires those who are released early from prison to undergo mandatory electronic monitoring.
The week-long special session began with the possibility of two criminal justice bills passing but ended with just one making it to Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk. She signed it Friday afternoon.
The Alabama Department of Corrections has spent more than $25.2 million on overtime this fiscal year trying to fill shifts in its understaffed prisons.
Overtime and the chronic staffing shortage is part of the discussions this week as lawmakers make their case for two new 4,000-bed men’s prisons. Since the beginning of fiscal 2016, ADOC has spent about $185 million on overtime, according to information given to Alabama Daily News by the Alabama State Personnel Department.
Plans for the prisons passed the House Wednesday and a Senate committee Thursday. The Senate is expected to vote on the plan Friday and could then adjourn the special session.
Proponents of the plan say the new sites will be easier to staff than the old and dangerous lockups that have about half the number of needed employees.
“Part of what we hope to do with this new construction is improve the conditions and the safety of those that work there, so it won’t be so difficult to hire new employees,” Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, told ADN. Read more.
Previously in the Legislature
Prison Construction Plan Passes House, Moves to the Senate
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a prison constriction package, including a bill to borrow up to $785 million to build two mega-jails, marking an optimistic outlook for final passage as the legislation moves to the Senate.
The prison construction legislation will be in the Senate General Fund budget committee meeting at 9 a.m. Thursday. If approved there, the package could receive final passage and go to Gov. Kay Ivey Friday in the quick-moving special session.
House Bill 4, the multi-phased plan to build three new prisons and renovating others, caused the most debate in the House on Wednesday but ultimately passed in a mostly party-line vote of 74-27.
The House also passed two other funding bills that would appropriate $135 million for renovations in prisons, allocate $19 million to purchase the Perry County Correctional Facility and use $400 million of the state’s American Rescue Plan Act funds. Read more.
More on the prison debate:
MONTGOMERY — The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday approved two criminal sentencing reform bills, sending them to the full House of Representatives for a vote as soon as Wednesday. The bills, sponsored by committee Chairman Jim Hill, R-Moody, are separate from the prison construction package that also advanced in committee Tuesday but were included by Gov. Kay Ivey in her call for a special session. Read more.