Lawsuit filed against Gov. Ivey seeks to stop mega-prison construction

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File image(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Updated: Apr. 27, 2021 at 5:41 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WBRC) - A lawsuit filed Tuesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court seeks to stop the progress on the state’s mega-prison construction plan that carries a $3 billion dollar price tag.

Governor Kay Ivey and Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn are named as defendants in the case.

Ivey signed two contracts with the prison giant CoreCivic in February to build mega-prisons in Elmore and Escambia counties. With these 30-year contracts, the prisons will be operated by the Alabama Department of Corrections and maintained by CoreCivic throughout the duration of the lease.

The plaintiffs in the case, state auditor Jim Zeigler, Represenative John Rogers, Elmore County property owner Leslie Ognburn and pastor Kenny Glasgow believe the lease agreements violate state law and ADOC regulations.

The lawsuit asks the judge to issue a declaratory judgment on the issue, specifically whether the governor can incur debt for the state. The plaintiffs ultimately ask the judge to void the lease agreements with CoreCivic. The plaintiffs also seek temporary and permanent injunctive relief to suspend the lease agreements.

Earlier this month Barclays and KeyBanc Capital Markets withdrew as underwriters on the project. CoreCivic now faces challenges to secure funding for the prison construction. Economist Kevian Deravi says this situation could raise the interest rates on the project and ultimately the overall cost.

“That means that interest cost to the state would be higher than a traditional investment at this point in time,” he explained. The financial terms of the leases aren’t final until this funding is secured.

Negotiations are still underway on the third mega-prison scheduled to be built in Bibb County.

The Department of Justice filed a federal lawsuit in December alleging the dangerous conditions inside Alabama’s prisons are violating prisoner’s constitutional rights. Other DOJ reports cited deadly inmate-on-inmate violence, excessive force by corrections officers and drug use inside the state’s overcrowded and understaffed male prisons.

The Alabama Department of Corrections fired back Tuesday, defending the prison leases with CoreCivic.

The Alabama Department of Corrections conducted extensive due diligence prior to, and in the process of, undertaking this project to ensure the Leases were entered into in accordance with applicable laws”, a spokesperson for ADOC stated . This politically motivated litigation is clearly intended only to distract. Frankly, it is disappointing that these individuals oppose progress and improvement within the State’s correctional system. The ADOC will swiftly respond to these baseless and unsupported allegations, and remains committed to building a more rehabilitative, therapeutic environment for our population of incarcerated people.”

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