Alabama Prisons

Prison Contract Bidders Donated to State Leadership

Runners, inmates who work at the prison, walk the halls of Donaldson Correctional Facility. (Source: Cameron Carnes)

A Florida-based group that is among four teams of developers that will submit proposals for a massive project to build and maintain three new Alabama prisons gave $67,500 to Gov. Kay Ivey, Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth and 26 legislators during the 2018 election cycle.

Companies or individuals associated with all four of the development teams contributed to candidates during the 2018 elections, but the Geo Group Inc., based in Boca Raton, Florida, and its political action committee were by far the biggest donors.

After the Geo Group’s $67,500, the second-largest total of contributions to statewide and legislative officeholders from companies or individuals associated with the prison-development teams was $28,250. That money was given by John White-Spunner of Mobile, president of White-Spunner Construction Inc., a partner in the development team led by Corvias LLC of East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

Ivey and the Alabama Department of Corrections announced last month that the teams of builders, architects, designers and other specialists had qualified to make proposals for upgrading the state’s aging, crowded prison system.

The four groups and their member companies are:

Alabama Prison Transformation Partners – Star America, Roslyn Heights, New York; BL Harbert International, Birmingham; Butler-Cohen, Houston, Texas; Arrington Watkins Architects, Phoenix, Arizona; and Johnson Controls Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

CoreCivic – CoreCivic of Tennessee LLC, Nashville; Caddell Construction, Montgomery; DLR Group, Montgomery; and R&N Systems Design, Memphis, Tennessee.

Corvias – Corvias LLC, East Greenwich, Rhode Island; Municipal Capital Markets Group, Dallas, Texas; HDR Architecture, Portland, Oregon; a joint venture of J.E. Dunn Construction, Kansas City, Missouri, and CORE Construction, Phoenix, Arizona; TKS Management Services; Treanor HL, Lawrence, Kansas; Seay, Seay & Litchfield Architects, Montgomery; White-Spunner Construction, Mobile; Mead & Hunt, Middleton, Wisconsin; and Baldwin Consulting Group.

The GEO Group – GEO Inc., Boca Raton, Florida; White Construction Co., Austin, Texas; and Nelson Wakefield Beasley & Associates, Alpharetta, Georgia.

GEO-Related Contributions

The GEO Group was by far the most active contributor to candidates in Alabama in 2017 and 2018.

The GEO Group Inc. contributed $10,000 to Ivey’s campaign for governor during 2017 and 2018. Voters in November 2018 chose a governor, lieutenant governor and members of the Legislature, along with other statewide and local officeholders.

Geo gave $7,500 to the campaign of Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston and president pro tem of the Alabama Senate; $5,000 to Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark and chairman of the House Ways and Means General Fund Committee, and $4,000 to Ainsworth, who as lieutenant governor presides over the Senate.

Other contributions GEO made to lawmakers were:

$2,500 – Sens. Tim Melson, R-Florence, Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, Jim McClendon, R-St. Clair Springs, Greg Reed, R-Jasper and chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation General Fund Committee, Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, and Cam Ward, R-Alabaster and chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee; and Reps. Matthew Fridy, R-Montevallo, Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia and speaker of the House, and Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa.

$2,000 – Sen. Tom Whatley, R-Auburn; and Reps. Jim Hill, R-Moody and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Michael Jones Jr., R-Andalusia.

$1,500 – Sen. Clyde Chambliss, R-Prattville; and Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper.

$1,000 – Sens. Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, and Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro; and Reps. Prince Chestnut, D-Selma, Corley Ellis, R-Columbiana, Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro, Paul Lee, R-Dothan, Artis McCampbell, D-Demopolis, Arnold Mooney II, R-Birmingham, and Chris Sells, R-Greenville.

$500 – Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee.

Other Contributors

Among other contributions by companies and individuals associated with the prison project:

Alabama Prison Transformation Partners

Billy L. Harbert of Birmingham, chairman and CEO of BL Harbert International, $5,000 to Ivey; $1,000 to Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills; and $500 to Rep. Gil Isbell, R-Gadsden.


CoreCivic of Tennessee, $2,500 to Ivey.


John White-Spunner of Daphne, president of White-Spunner Construction, $20,000 to Ivey; $8,000 to Sen. David Northcutt, R-Fairhope; and $250 to Ainsworth.

Prison Revitalization Project

The state in June invited groups and companies to submit their qualifications for leading the prison project. On Nov. 26, it announced the selection of the four teams that will compete.

“The revitalization of prisons in Alabama is crucial, and this plan to improve the state’s infrastructure is a major step towards reduced recidivism and improved public safety,” Ivey said in a statement issued at the time. “I am committed to propelling this plan forward.”

Proposals are due to the state by April 30.

“This development of three new prisons is a key focus of our strategic effort to reduce staffing shortages and crowding, improve working conditions for our officers, increase safety, and provide facility infrastructure for enhanced educational and vocational programs,” said Jeff Dunn, commissioner of the Department of Corrections.

The state is under pressure to improve the prison system because of lawsuits and federal reports challenging the facilities, living conditions, safety and health care the state provides. Corrections officials also have struggled to adequately staff the aging prisons to maintain proper security.

The overall project is expected to cost in the range of $900 million. The request for proposals calls for the group that is selected to purchase three 210-acre sites and develop “turn key, built-to-suit” prisons – one of 817,983 square feet and the others of 550,627 square feet each. The group would maintain and provide janitorial and other services for each. One of the prisons would accommodate 3,954 inmates, and the other two would house 3,104 each.

The state would lease the prisons for 30 years, paying up to an estimated $88 million a year for all three.