House Speaker McCutcheon: ‘Dangerous’ to say prison special session coming in the fall, Could be after ‘first of the year’
As early as the end of April, signs were pointing to Gov. Kay Ivey calling a special session to deal with Alabama’s prisons this fall, especially as the Department of Justice said in a letter that conditions in Alabama’s prisons for men might violate the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
However, the legislature may not be ready for that special session by fall, according to Alabama House Speaker Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia).
During an interview with Alabama Public Television’s “Capitol Journal” host Don Dailey, McCutcheon acknowledged the need for the special session, but not the timing of it.
“[N]ow the timing of it is going to be up to the governor, and the information that we are able to put together leading up to the point,” McCutcheon said. “But the governor asked me personally would I support the special session from my opinion, not hers, but from my opinion. I told her I would. I told I felt like we needed a special session to address the issues. I mean, when it comes to the sentencing reform, when it comes to the buildings, the bricks and mortar of our facilities that we have, when it comes to the training and the amount of people we have hired as the correction officers, when we look at the treatment care of inmates – all of these things.”
“If we were just working on legislation, Don, there could be hundreds of pieces of legislation that could address all of those different issues,” he continued. “But at the end of the day, we need to focus down on what will point us in the right direction and try to accomplish the goals that we have set before us through the Department of Justice out of Washington. And once we can get focused like that, I think we will need a special session to keep us focused on what the real issues are and the legislation that will get us to that point.”
McCutcheon went on to add there was a lot of work to be done before the legislature was ready for a special session, and said it could be as late as next year until they were prepared for it.
“There’s got to be a lot of information – we need more data and more information to be gathered,” McCutcheon said. “There may be five or six pieces of legislation out there that either needs to be created and/or amended to get us to the point we need to be when it comes to sentencing reform. And because of that, it takes time, and we need to be investigating, researching, pulling all the information in do we can get to that point. And that’s why I say it’s kind of dangerous to try to say we’re going to have a special session in the fall. Well, we may not be ready in the fall. It may be after the first of the year before we’re ready. And because of that, I know the governor’s going to be working very hard with the legislature to work together, and that’s one of the things that I thought from the very beginning. Let’s take our prison reform commission, let’s take our group that was put together from that commission to work on a task force if you will – not necessarily an organized task force but a group of people that have expertise in this area in the House and the Senate to sit down and start looking at everything that we have. And because of that, let’s move forward and do it in a productive way.”