11 months ago

Kay Ivey: An Alabama solution to rebuilding the Alabama Corrections System

In order to correct a problem, you must first admit there is a problem. In Alabama, we have a problem. Our problem is our state’s corrections system.

Like many other states, issues of violence, poor living conditions and mental illness persist within our system. These issues, and others, are exacerbated by a crowded inmate population, correctional and health care staffing challenges, and aging prison infrastructure – each piece compounding the others.

We have a problem in Alabama, and we have waited far too long to address it. The path forward to resolve these problems is clear and obvious. However, this path is neither quick nor simple.

First, we must increase our correctional staffing levels by improving the pay scale for correctional officers and expanding our recruiting efforts. Second, we must construct prison facilities that meet the needs of a criminal justice system in the 21st century.

We have already started making strides toward reducing our prison population and increasing staffing levels. In 2015, the Alabama Legislature passed historic criminal justice reform legislation that greatly reduced the number of inmates in Alabama prisons. Thanks to members of the Legislature, the state’s prison population has decreased from nearly 200 percent of capacity to approximately 160 percent, still too large but an important step in the right direction.

Also in 2018, the Legislature helped improve our system by increasing funding for correctional and health services staffing. An additional $86 million was appropriated for the state’s 2018 and 2019 fiscal years to retain new staffing for medical and mental health services and to reduce the turnover rate of correctional staffing. For the upcoming regular session, my budget proposal will include an additional $31 million to hire 500 new correctional officers and increase the pay scale for all security personnel to make their salary competitive given current market conditions in Alabama.

Alabama currently sits under a federal court order requiring the state to roughly double the number of correctional officers in the next two years. Although I disagree with many aspects of the lawsuit that led to this order, the fact of the matter is that it compels us to make staffing levels a necessary and vital part of the solution to our problem.

In December, we saw our first increase in the number of correctional officers in years. With a rising retention rate, we can begin adding to our officer ranks, rather than simply maintaining our current staffing levels. This is a difficult task, but because of the commitment from members of the Legislature, we are now well on our way to addressing our staffing challenges.

Next, we must improve the conditions in which we house inmates. “Deplorable,” “horrendous” and “inadequate” are words which have been used to describe them. Our existing facilities need $750 million in maintenance alone. Last year, we closed the Draper Correctional Facility, a 79-year-old prison, because it was simply too costly to repair. Without costly maintenance, many other facilities may require closing as well. Repairing these facilities that do not meet the needs of today’s criminal justice system would be wasteful and ineffective. We must put aside politics of the past and fix this problem for the betterment of our state.

Alabama must have new prison facilities because we must have better conditions, we must have better safety, and we must have better programs. The Department of Corrections hired a project management team that recommended we build three new regional men’s prisons. Of the three new facilities, one will have additional space centralizing services for special needs populations: the aged, the infirmed and those with mental health conditions. Additionally, there will be space in each new facility for educational and vocational training programs.

These facilities will be a valuable and lasting investment in the future of our state. On average, 95 percent of our inmates, once they have completed their sentence and are eligible for release, will be returning to the cities, towns, communities and neighborhoods within Alabama. This investment will secure our opportunity to release these individuals back into society as more educated and more productive, law-abiding citizens.

The investment in these new facilities will also ensure that we retain control of our correctional system. Across this nation, federal courts are intervening in unprecedented ways into the operations of correctional systems. In 2009, three federal judges ordered the release of thousands of inmates in the California prison system. Some estimate this order resulted in the release of more than 40,000 inmates. Following the release of these inmates, one study into the impact of this mass release called the increases in crime rates “alarming.” So, our public safety also demands this investment.

Today, the Department of Corrections is preparing a “request for proposals” for distribution to contractors in Alabama and across the nation, asking for bids to build these new prisons. By taking this step, we will – for the first time – receive the most accurate view of the real cost of building these new facilities.

Some opponents of this plan say that it is too costly. Here in Alabama and across our country, we have a set of laws to which every person must adhere. However, no matter what crime was committed, every human being deserves a certain level of care. I say to you that it is and will continue to be costly to provide adequate living conditions and health care for the more than 20,000 adults in our corrections system, to maintain aging facilities, and to sustain public safety.

Others say special interests have a hand in this plan; that could not be further from the truth. In fact, I make a promise to you that part of this next step is to publicly provide the real costs we receive from contractors and to work closely with the Legislature to determine the most cost-effective way of moving forward. Whatever we do will be the best and most fiscally responsible decision for the state of Alabama.

A tough decision will have to be made in the very near future. With the continued support from the Alabama Legislature and with the added support from the people of Alabama, I am putting forth this plan to make “Trouble in Alabama Prisons” a headline of the past.

As we work together, we will solve this problem and make the situation better for those incarcerated, the employees who care for them, and the entire state of Alabama.

Kay Ivey is the 54th governor of Alabama

1 hour ago

Watch: Republican Women of Huntsville’s U.S. Senate candidate forum

On Tuesday, the Republican Women of Huntsville hosted a U.S. Senate candidates forum at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens.

The forum featured former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope), former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville and State Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Indian Springs). It was moderated by Yellowhammer News’ Jeff Poor.

The candidates were given two minutes to open, followed by questions regarding various topics including trade, foreign policy, marijuana, debts and deficits, term limits and abortion with minute-and-a-half responses, and a two-minute close.

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Video stream courtesy of Alabama Straw Poll:

2 hours ago

Byrne: ‘Would be surprised’ if Trump doesn’t comment on Senate race; Sessions should have resigned AG post if he thought recusal was necessary

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) said former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one of his opponents vying for the Republican nomination for Alabama’s U.S. Senate election in November, was fair game regarding his stint as the nation’s top law enforcement officer in the Trump administration.

In a wide-ranging interview with Huntsville radio’s WVNN, Byrne explained that although President Donald Trump has largely remained publicly quiet about their U.S. Senate race, he anticipates Trump will eventually reveal his feelings on the contest and about Sessions.

“I would be surprised if he doesn’t,” Byrne said on “The Jeff Poor Show.” “Every time I’m with him, he wants to talk about the Senate race in Alabama. Even when we’re in a big group of people, he wants to talk about it. He’s paying very close attention. He cares a lot. He cares about Alabama, number one. But he’s got some really hard feelings about Jeff [Sessions]. He really does. Even if he doesn’t say another word, take these two quotes: ‘The biggest mistake I ever made as president is appointing Jeff Sessions U.S. Attorney General.’ Or this quote, ‘Jeff Sessions is a disgrace to the great state of Alabama.’ Those two quotes that he made several months ago — I don’t see how Jeff gets over those.”

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Byrne said he disagreed with Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from any Department of Justice investigations into the 2016 elections and added that if Sessions believed his recusal was necessary, he should have resigned his post at attorney general given the scope of the investigation into the 2016 election.

“I don’t think he needed to recuse himself,” he said. “But if he felt like he needed to recuse himself, he should have resigned because he took himself out of a big chunk of what the attorney general is supposed to be doing. Look at all the things we learned in the inspector general’s report. Because he took himself off the playing field, months went by before we dealt with that. And now Attorney General Barr is dealing with that, thank God. If he couldn’t do his job, he should have said, ‘Look, I can’t do my job. I’m going to have to resign,’ and didn’t do that.”

Byrne’s sentiments echo those of another one of the candidates in the run for the 2020 GOP U.S. senatorial nod, former Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville, who a day earlier raised similar concerns about Sessions.

According to Byrne, Sessions should have seen the controversy looming on the horizon and not have accepted the appointment as attorney general during the 2016-2017 presidential transition.

“I don’t see how he didn’t see it was coming,” Byrne said. “But assuming that he didn’t — still, once he determined ‘I cannot be involved in this. I have to recuse myself,’ he should have resigned and let somebody else do that job. The president would have put him somewhere else. The president would have said, ‘OK, Jeff — you can’t do that. I’ll make you Secretary of Homeland Security.’ He would have done that. But that’s not what Jeff did. The people of Alabama have got to decide how they feel about that. But I think it is perfectly legitimate to bring that up. I think it is perfectly legitimate for Tommy Tuberville to bring that up. If Jeff is not ready to talk about, he needs to understand he is in a political campaign.”

Sessions has previously told Yellowhammer News the controversy regarding his tenure as attorney general had not come up on the campaign trail. However, Byrne said it comes up regularly for him.

“They bring it up with me all the time,” he said. “If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard this 300 or 400 times in the last few weeks alone — they’re angry with him. They’re angry he even got in the race. That’s something he has got to deal with. And you know, you look at his television commercial — that’s his effort to try to deal with it. I think that’s fair game. When you get into a campaign like this, you’ve got to expect that. We’re going to hear more about that. You’ll be hearing more about that from voters or whoever. I’m sticking with what I’m talking about right now. You know, we’ve hit a real thread with the voters here. They like what’s in that commercial I’m showing right now, the personal touch with it. So I’m going to stay with that. It’s working for me, and I’m just going to stay right there.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

4 hours ago

Aderholt: ‘I look forward to the day when there are no more abortions’

Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-04) recently spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives about his staunch pro-life views.

Wednesday marks the 47th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling.

Aderholt’s remarks can be seen in a video posted to his Twitter account.

“I stand here today as pro-life, pro-family and pro-child,” he began.

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“No matter what your faith is, everyone understands that life is very precious and that life is a gift,” Aderholt continued. “I believe that as members of Congress and really as all citizens, we’re called to protect the vulnerable — and this is one of my core beliefs.”

“Being pro-life means not just pro-birth but being interested in the welfare of the child during his or her entire formative years,” the dean of Alabama’s House delegation advised. “That’s why I’m not only a longtime member of the pro-life caucus but also the co-chair of the congressional coalition on adoption.”

He showed appreciation for the Trump administration’s work on pro-life issues.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank this administration for the work they have done to defend the unborn, including changing the rules for Title X and expanding the Mexico City Policy. I look forward to continuing to work with the administration on these issues as we come to the time of January [22], where we remember the ruling of Roe versus Wade,” Aderholt remarked.

“I look forward to the day when there are no more abortions because there’s no more unwanted children,” he concluded.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

7 Things: Impeachment fight finally on, Doug Jones tied to Schiff and Omar, indicted judges may not get paid anymore and more …

7. Alabamians are lazy

  • The Centers for Disease Control has released a list of physical activity levels by state for adults, and Alabama ranked fourth out of states with the highest inactivity level.
  • According to the report, 31% of adults in Alabama were reported as not being physically active. Mississippi ranked first with 33%, Arkansas second with 32.5%, Kentucky in third with 32.2% and Louisiana in fifth with 30.9%.

6. Biden slipping but still the favorite

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  • Apparently, the idea that U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is a giant sexist monster didn’t successfully derail his candidacy. In fact, a new poll has him leading the Democratic field with former Vice President Joe Biden with 24% closely behind U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) lagging with 14%.
  • Biden finds himself in a precarious situation. He has dropped 10 points in this poll since October while Sanders has surged up 11.

5. Daycares could be taking on a new responsibility

  • State Representative Randy Wood (R-Anniston) has prepared a bill to file with the legislature called the Cash Edwin Jordan Act. The bill would require that daycares contact the parents or guardians if a child doesn’t arrive by 9:30 am.
  • The act is named for an 11-month-old that was accidentally left in the car back in September and passed away. Last year, there were 53 kids who died due to being left in a hot car last year across the United States, most of them being three-years-old or younger.

4. Sentencing reform is going nowhere in Alabama

  • In Montgomery, former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spent time discussing President Donald Trump’s criminal justice reform bill. Sessions expressed his concern over the reduced sentences, saying he thinks some of them “went too far.”
  • Sessions went on to say the reductions made him “uneasy,” but he did go on to explain that he supported several parts of the bill, including educating and helping them successfully prepare for being released.

3. Indicted judge still getting paid — a state representative wants to change that

  • Limestone County Judge Doug Patterson has been indicted on felony charges, but he’s still on the state payroll and collecting his paycheck. Now, State Representative Andy Whitt (R-Harvest) is calling for Patterson’s resignation.
  • Whitt has said that Patterson shouldn’t continue to get paid if he isn’t a working judge, also mentioning how the other three judges in the county are overworked as they pick up Patterson’s work since he was suspended last year, but every month Patterson is getting paid $10,808.84.

2. Super-PAC is throwing punches at Doug Jones

  • U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) has shown no interest in opposing the impeachment of President Donald Trump, and now the super-PAC America First Policies has put out an ad against Jones, deeming impeachment as a “radical left” project.
  • In the ad, Jones is shown to be in agreement with people like U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). The ad features a clip of Jones saying, “This is not a witch hunt, this is not a hoax.” Publicly, though, Jones has told CNN that he will be reelected no matter how he votes, but in the public, he hasn’t stated how he plans to vote on impeachment.

1. White House lawyers are playing offense, Democrats want witnesses

  • With the impeachment trial against President Donald Trump opening in the U.S. Senate, lawyers for Trump came out and said that the House Democrats have “no case.” White House counsel Pat Cipollone said some of the Democratic senators “should be in Iowa,” referencing U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MD).
  • Cipollone added, “Instead, we’re here and they’re not ready to go.” When U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) took the floor, he called for a “fair trial” that he thinks most people don’t expect, as he believes people think Trump will be acquitted because of partisan politics, as if he is not partisan.

5 hours ago

Jones votes with Schumer, Democrats every time to begin Trump impeachment trial

Six-for-six. No, it is not the new deal at Wendy’s fast-food restaurants. That was Senator Doug Jones’ (D-AL) 100% record of voting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on Tuesday, the first day of the Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald J. Trump.

Jones has emphasized that he does not view impeachment through a partisan lens, however, all six of his votes fell along strict party lines to start off the impeachment trial.

The votes were on tabling Democrat amendments to the trial rules proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). All 53 Republicans all six times voted to table the amendments, while all 47 Democrats voted against tabling the amendments.

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This comes after an ad was released earlier in the day accusing Jones of “siding with them” on impeachment, meaning siding with “the radical left.” A Jones spokesperson on Tuesday night blasted the ad as containing “blatant lies.”

RELATED: Jones vows to not be swayed by political forces on right or left on impeachment — ‘It is not worth their time’

Jones recently claimed in a CNN interview that he will be reelected in November even if he votes to remove Trump from office.

Additionally, Alabama’s junior senator recently said he is “not trying to please Chuck Schumer” nor is he “trying to necessarily please anyone” during the impeachment trial.

The “anyone” part of that statement may very well remind Alabamians of his infamous line during the Kavanaugh confirmation process, when Jones declared that representing the majority of his constituents is not “the be all to end all.” Jones ultimately voted against the confirmation.

Editor’s note: As of this writing, Jones shortly after 12:00 a.m. ET Wednesday voted with the Democrats on another impeachment trial rules amendment, making his record seven-for-seven.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn