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Alabama begins next steps in $1.3 billion prison plan

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 5:20 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama prison reform bill is in effect. Lawmakers passed the plan to address the state’s prison crisis Friday after a week of debate, and Gov. Kay Ivey quickly signed it. That’s only the first step in overhauling the prison system though.

Phase one, the construction of two 4,000 bed facilities that will be built in Escambia and Elmore counties, could begin fairly soon. With money already available and contractors lined up, lawmakers say work is able to begin quickly.

“I believe we’re gonna see dirt flying in January,” said Sen, Greg Albritton, R- Baldwin County. “$1.2 billion I think is the total, and the $785 [million] will be bonded. And then $154 [million] will be used in monies that we have in the general fund. And, of course, we’ve already spoken about the $400 million [American Rescue Plan] money.”

Once phase one is at least 60% complete, phase two can begin. That will bring renovations to Tutwiler Women’s Prison and Limestone and Donaldson prisons. Other facilities including Ventress and Easterling in Barbour County or the Bullock County prison could be renovated, but those will be selected at a later time.

“So there’s going to be elements of this that are not going to go into effect because it’s going to take, what I’m told, three to three-and-a-half years for these new facilities to be constructed,” Sen Pro Tem Greg Reed, R-Jasper, said.

In the meantime, plans for conditions inside the current facilities are being addressed. Last Friday Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said they will begin discussions this week to see what can be done while the state waits for the new prisons to be built.

Some House Democrats and advocacy groups are criticizing this plan saying it does not address the issues soon enough.

In a statement, ACLU Alabama Executive Director Jataune Bosby said “It is now on every Alabamian to speak up, show up, and make sure your representatives are held accountable, especially when they come up for election in 2022. The future of our state depends on it.”

It will take at least three years to complete phase one of the state’s construction plan.

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