Senate Committee to Debate Prison Construction Bill

Mar 1, 2017

Inmates at Draper Correctional Facility near Elmore, Ala.
Credit Albert Cesare / Montgomery Advertiser

The state Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a plan to build four new, massive prisons in Alabama this afternoon.

The bill would authorize Alabama’s Department of Corrections to build three massive new men’s prisons and a new women’s prison, and would close over a dozen of the state’s existing prison facilities.

It would be financed by an $800 million bond issue that would leave the state paying $50 million a year for thirty years. Supporters including Governor Robert Bentley say the new prisons would save about that much money in operating costs.

Ebony Howard is the Associate Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center and is set to testify against the bill at today’s hearing. She says the details of the plan are worryingly sparse.

“We don’t know where these four prisons are going to be built. We don’t know the 14 existing prisons that are going to be closed. It’s a blank check to build four huge prisons that aren’t in our best interest, and Alabama cannot afford a blank check.”

Last year, a similar, watered-down proposal failed in the state House of Representatives. Opponents believe the plan fails to address issues like overcrowding, understaffing and frequent violence in state prisons.