Category: Alabama Prisons
State leaders are now discussing building two new prisons and renovating others in an effort to improve the state’s dangerous and crowded correctional system.
Legislative and Alabama Department of Corrections leaders met Thursday in Montgomery for the third time in less than a month to discuss options. Another meeting is scheduled for next week, Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, told Alabama Daily News. Read more.
Gov. Kay Ivey and some legislative leaders met Wednesday to discuss possible next steps after the governor’s proposal to lease three new men’s prisons stalled earlier this month.
“No decisions were made today; this was simply an opportunity for an update on where we are and what needs to happen, going forward with respect to improving our prison infrastructure,” Ivey said in a written statement.
The meeting included Ivey, Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn, Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, and the Legislature’s two General Fund budget chairmen. Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark, and Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range.
Officials did not disclose the details of what was discussed, but called the meeting productive and the first of several. Lawmakers earlier this year balked at a nearly $3 billion price tag on Ivey’s 30-year prison lease plan and said they’d largely been excluded from discussions.
As the clock ran out on Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan to lease new prisons, several lawmakers say they want to consider using some of the more than $2 billion in new federal Coronavirus relief money on improved prison infrastructure.
Earlier this year, Ivey signed lease agreements with Tennessee-based CoreCivic to build two large men’s prisons. Tuesday was the deadline for those agreements to be final and Ivey confirmed to reporters Wednesday that the lease route is no longer an option as support from potential underwriters has fallen away.
“To that end, my team and I will meet with legislative leaders again in the coming days to review all that we have learned through this process thus far, including the complexity and depth of the multi-faceted challenge at-hand,” Ivey said in a statement. “Anyone who is serious about these issues understands that replacing our failing prison infrastructure with safer, more secure facilities that accommodate the rehabilitation of incarcerated people is essential. It is not a question of if this will happen, but how. Read more.
More prison debate:
As the clock runs down on Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan to lease new prisons, several lawmakers say they want to consider using some of the more than $2 billion in new federal coronavirus relief money on improved prison infrastructure.
Earlier this year, Ivey signed lease agreements with Tennessee-based CoreCivic to build two large men’s prisons. Tuesday was the deadline for those agreements to be final, but CoreCivic’s funding has been in jeopardy as support from potential underwriters as fallen away.
Meanwhile, lawmakers have signaled to Ivey they want another crack at a state-funded prison plan.
Alabama budget makers and leaders are continuing to lay the groundwork for the distribution and spending of Rescue Plan funds. The state this summer will start seeing some of the more than $4 billion allocated to it and local governments in the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan Act. Separately, there is nearly $2 billion going to K-12 schools in the Rescue Plan.
While the Legislature and Gov. Kay Ivey this session put more money toward prison education programs and incentivized participation for some with earlier release, the state is not doing enough to track what programs are actually helping offenders find jobs and stay out of prison, a recent report says.
Meanwhile, there are still significant barriers to accessing prison education programs, the report from the Alabama Commission on Evaluation of Services said.
“The state is not tracking the necessary performance metrics to determine if our educational efforts are working for our population,” Marcus Morgan, ACES director, told Alabama Daily News. “We should know and we can know.”
More from the State House on Alabama prisons:
LifeTech, a previously successful residential job-training center for the recently paroled, is expected to reopen later this year.
The center was shuttered last year in a controversial move by the then-leader of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles.
Now, new director Cam Ward says he expects a “soft opening” of the Thomasville center in late summer. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — As the state’s plan to lease new mega-prisons hit another apparent roadblock Monday, more lawmakers appear ready for the state to instead borrow money to construct its own new facilities.
Some legislative leaders on Monday said lawmakers are ready to approve a state-owned prison plan. At least one said support would be there as early as next Monday, the Legislature’s final day of the regular session.
Multiple sources told Alabama Daily News that lawmakers have discussed taking current legislation that is awaiting final passage and substituting it with language initiating a state prison bond process similar to one former Gov. Robert Bentley pursued in 2016 and 2017. Read more.
Major banks have backed off of financing two of the three proposed new prisons in Alabama, leaving opponents of Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan to lease the prisons from private groups hopeful that any deals related to the third site, in Brierfield, also would hit a snag.
Bloomberg News reported Monday that the sudden about-face by Barclays and Keybanc took financial traders by surprise.
The prisons in Escambia and Elmore counties are slated to be built by CoreCivic, a prison company that has contracted with the state of Alabama to build the two prisons and lease them to the state for 30 years. The third site, proposed for Brierfield in Bibb County, is to be built and owned by a consortium headed by BL Harbert. Read more.
Recent information about prison company CoreCivic’s agreement with the state to build two large facilities is renewing concerns among some about the cost and state funding priorities.
On April 2, Bloomberg News reported on bank Barclay’s plans to be an underwriter for CoreCivic.
The story included a report from CoreCivic to potential investors that said ADOC’s revenues are provided by the Legislature. “This will include budgeting for all of ADOC’s obligations under the new lease agreements,” it said.
“ADOC has discretion over how to spend the appropriation provided by the Legislature and has covenanted in the lease to prioritize lease payments above all other obligations to the extent permitted by law.” Read more.
When Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed leases for two new privately-owned prisons earlier this year, the decision sparked uproar with the public, activists and the legislature. While state leaders say the move aims to improve prison conditions, some worry it will only increase the incarceration rate in a state that ranks 13th nationally.
Louisiana ranks number one in the country for incarceration rates, and Mississippi comes in second. With the U.S. Department of Justice investigating all three states for the prison conditions and their release practices, each state is testing a different approach to address those issues.
In Alabama, 30-year lease agreements with CoreCivic would allow one of the nation’s largest private prison companies to own and maintain the two facilities while the state corrections department staffs them. Together they’ll hold 7,000 inmates. Ivey pushed the deal through without opening it up to public opinion or working with state lawmakers.
This has residents like Alan Parker worried.