Ivey admin. seeking to build three new men’s prisons; estimated cost of $900m
Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) will request bids for the construction of three new men’s prisons to replace existing facilities, with the administration still undecided on whether to seek funding approval from the state legislature or pursue private leasing.
According to The Montgomery Advertiser, the governor told reporters of the plan in a meeting Tuesday.
Per ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn, early estimated construction costs stand at approximately $900 million. If implemented, the proposal would house 3,000 to 3,500 inmates between two facilities. A third would house inmates with special needs, including those needing mental health treatment.
The plan is to put out a Request for Proposal this year for the new prisons. The governor expects new prisons to open in 2022.
— Lauren Walsh (@LaurenWalshTV) February 12, 2019
This came the day after Judge Myron Thompson wrote in a ruling that Alabama has been “deliberately indifferent” about monitoring the mental health of state inmates placed in the isolation of segregation cells.
Thompson in 2017 wrote that mental health care in state prisons was “horrendously inadequate” and violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
An ADOC spokesman recently told the Associated Press that the department will “evaluate the best approach for constructing the facilities … either through a bond issue, or a build-lease option.”
The spokesman explained that the build-lease option would allow for one or more private firms to construct the facilities to state specifications and then enter into a lease agreement with the state. He said ADOC would maintain operational control and management of the facilities under this type of arrangement.
While the possibility of private leasing has already been met with opposition from state lawmakers, including Rep. Chris England (D-Tuscaloosa), funding avenues that would require legislative approval have previously been stonewalled.
In 2017, former Governor Robert Bentley unsuccessfully sought approval from the state legislature for an $800 million plan to build three new regional prisons for men — as well as a female prison — and to close most existing facilities.
The measure failed to win lawmakers’ approval after they raised concerns about the price tag and local job losses when existing prisons closed.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn