Category: Alabama Prisons
Alabama plans a 3,100-inmate prison in the Brierfield community of Bibb County, but officialdom holds all the cards and the governor isn’t showing her hand.
Even Bibb County administrator Derek Reeves responds to questions about the proposed prison by saying: “I don’t know anything about that. We are not involved with the prison.”
Gov. Kay Ivy has disclosed three general locations for prisons that the state will lease from their private developers. Brierfield, the last general area revealed, has received the coolest reception from the residents of Brierfield Estates, who are leading the opposition.
Big questions loom involving how infrastructure would be provided in the rural area, such as treated water, sewage disposal and access roads.
The precise site of the new prison has not been officially announced. But signs point to it being built at the intersection of A. Arker Road and Brickyard Pass about a mile west of Alabama 139, in the Ashby area.
Such a large prison calls for about 500 acres, and the parcel at that location, which has been cleared to bare earth, fits the description released by the governor’s office. A road potentially suitable for heavy construction vehicles also has been cut into the site. Equipment and activity now at the site are of the type suitable for well drilling or environmental testing.
A source with knowledge of the prison development confirmed that the site is, indeed, the intended location for the prison and that contractors are drilling a well there. Read more.
A lawsuit filed last week by the U.S. Department of Justice could lead to federal supervision of Alabama’s prison system. It’s the culmination of an investigation that began in 2016 and resulted in two scathing reports, published April 2019 and July 2020, that detailed rampant abuse of inmates.
Before filing the lawsuit, the DOJ spent more than a year negotiating with state officials and trying to get Alabama to improve its prison system.
University of Alabama law professor Jenny Carroll said the federal government got tired of waiting. “I think the fact they did go ahead and file suggests that the solutions the state came up with and were bringing to the table and were offering just weren’t enough,” said Carroll. “They weren’t enough in light of what DOJ was finding.” Read more.
Down a two-lane road in Bibb County, about 10 miles from Montevallo, the unincorporated community of Brierfield has one restaurant, a post office, and a small convenience store that takes cash only. About 1500 people live in the area.
The state wants to build a 3,000-person prison here, one that will be larger than any existing facility. Brierfield is one of three locations slated for new mega prisons as part of a plan to address chronic crowding and violence in the state prison system.
Brierfield residents are pushing back. Read more.
The U.S. Department of Justice sued Alabama and the state Department of Corrections Wednesday over excessive violence in state prisons. The lawsuit, which is the culmination of a years-long investigation into constitutional violations in Alabama’s prison system, also alleges inmates are routinely subject to sexual abuse and excessive force at the hands of prison staff. Read more.
State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, takes over Monday as head of Alabama’s Bureau of Pardons and Paroles and plans to make changes to the system. Read more.
Alabama officials announced Thursday the location of three new regional prisons planned for Bibb, Elmore and Escambia counties.
In a statement, Governor Kay Ivey’s office said the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) will now enter into negotiations with two private developer teams who will build the facilities and lease them to the state. ADOC will still operate and staff the prisons, but the private developers will be responsible for long-term maintenance. Officials said they will announce financial details of the project in late 2020, after final negotiations.
The new prisons will replace several existing male facilities, which are chronically overcrowded, understaffed and violent. ADOC is currently under a court order to improve conditions and hire roughly 2000 correctional officers. It is also in negotiations with the US Department of Justice to address violence among both inmates and staff.
Since being authorized to hold parole hearings under a special order from Gov. Kay Ivey, the state Board of Pardons and Paroles has held more than 1,200 hearings and granted 253 paroles. In the past, the board has held public hearings. But because of the pandemic, it is holding hearings in which it reviews materials submitted by the interested parties. Read more.
UPDATED — Responding to the coronavirus, the Alabama Department of Corrections suspended its work release program in mid-March, and figures for May show how that decision has led to a drastic drop in inmate earnings, the amount of restitution that work release inmates pay to their victims, and the amount of inmate earnings that goes to corrections itself.
Payments to victims were cut by almost $100,000 in May, which includes some time before the program was suspended, compared to February. Money to corrections was cut more than $700,000, and $534,000 less was deposited to inmates’ accounts. Read more.
In a report released Thursday, U.S. justice officials said men confined to Alabama’s prisons are subject to excessive force at the hands of correctional officers. They said the issue is pervasive and systemic and likely violates the U.S. Constitution’s Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
In the 30-page document, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the three U.S. Attorney’s Offices for Alabama said prison staff regularly use batons, chemical spray and physical attacks to improperly and unjustly punish inmates. They said the excessive force can result in serious injury or death, citing two men who died in 2019 at the hands of correctional officers. Autopsies found both men were beaten so badly, they were left with intracranial bleeding and multiple head and body fractures.
A fourth inmate in the Alabama prison system has died after testing positive for the coronavirus. Read more.