MONTGOMERY, AL (WBRC) - Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said private prison companies could be a solution to Alabama's prison crisis.
"We're considering every option available and that's certainly an option," Ivey told reporters Tuesday at an Alabama Workforce Council meeting in Montgomery.
Governor Ivey explained that private prison companies could build new prisons that the state would lease. This would not require Alabama's Legislature to pass a bond measure, according to Ivey. Plans to build new prisons failed in the past two legislative sessions. Some lawmakers expressed concerns about the $800 million price tag for new prison construction.
A reporter asked Ivey if private prison companies would allow her to keep a pledge in finding an Alabama-based solution to prison reform.
"It sure would," Ivey said. "You don't want the Federal Courts telling you what to do and how much you've got to spend to get the job done. Alabama's gonna handle this," she said.
Last week Alabama's Department of Corrections (ADOC) announced plans to hire an independent project management team to help develop a master plan for prison reform.
"It is clear that we have serious infrastructure needs within our prison system, and we need to make decisions on correcting these issues," said ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn. "This plan will provide a blue print for long-term fixes to this generational problem," he said.
WBRC asked ADOC how much it would cost the state to hire the project management team and a spokesperson did not respond to our request.
Maria Morris, senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said ADOC should focus its resources on repairing existing facilities and increasing staffing levels.
"More prisons and more beds are not the answer in the short or the long term," said Morris. "They waste taxpayer money, fail to solve our immediate challenges in the prison system, and do not make our communities safer," she said.
ADOC has been under pressure to resolve the state's overcrowded and understaffed prisons, in part, due to a lawsuit filed by SPLC over inadequate mental healthcare for inmates. Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled against the prison system, calling inmate care "horrendously inadequate."