2 months ago

State of Alabama announces three proposed prison construction projects

Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) on Thursday morning announced the next step in the State’s plan to lease three new mega men’s prisons to be privately constructed and owned.

The announcement stems from ADOC’s Request for Proposal (RFP) to improve the prison infrastructure in Alabama, as the federal government continues to demand improvement across the state corrections system.

A release from Ivey’s office advised that an evaluation committee “comprised of stakeholders from the ADOC and Alabama Department of Finance, including the Division of Construction Management, conducted a thorough evaluation of the proposals submitted by pre-qualified Developer Teams, and subsequently made award recommendations to ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn.”

As a result, the ADOC now intends to enter into negotiations with the following developer teams to construct new facilities at the following proposed sites:

Facility One: Alabama Prison Transformation Partners (Star America; BL Harbert International; Butler-Cohen; Arrington Watkins Architects; and Johnson Controls, Inc.) with a proposed site located near AL-139/CR-2 in Bibb County.

Facility Two: CoreCivic (CoreCivic; Caddell Construction; DLR Group; and R&N Systems Design) with a proposed site in Elmore County (multiple locations under review; proposed site to be shared at a later date).

Facility Three: CoreCivic (CoreCivic; Caddell Construction; DLR Group; and R&N Systems Design) with a proposed site located near Bell Fork Road in Escambia County.

Timeline

This procurement process formally began with the ADOC posting a request for Expression of Interest (EOI) to improve Alabama’s prison infrastructure on March 27, 2019. The department announced the developer teams who submitted EOIs on April 18, 2019.

Next, the ADOC issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) on June 27, 2019. Participation in the RFQ process was mandatory and required interested developer teams to respond and submit a Statement of Qualifications (SOQ) by August 26, 2019, to demonstrate each team’s financial capacity and technical expertise. An evaluation committee analyzed the SOQs to identify the developer teams qualified to receive the RFP.

That evaluation committee examined the experience and qualifications of the team lead, equity partners, design and construction teams, and service providers, as well as their ability to adequately meet the financial needs of the Alabama Prison Program.

In November 2019, Ivey and the ADOC announced that four developer teams qualified to receive the RFP in December 2019. An addendum to the RFP was issued on April 3, 2020, extending the proposal submission deadline due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposals were due to the ADOC on May 14, 2020, and were opened on May 15, 2020. Only Alabama Prison Transformation Partners and CoreCivic ended up submitting proposals for evaluation out of the four qualified teams. The public opening was held virtually out of an abundance of caution and in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations on coronavirus as it relates to large gatherings.

Tuesday’s announcement was the latest development following the public opening and confidential proposal evaluation process.

It should be noted that the evaluation committee provided to ADOC an assessment of the proposals submitted by the developer teams, including a review of the proposed lease price and financial plan, as well as a technical evaluation of the proposed design. In evaluating the proposed designs, the governor’s office explained that the evaluation committee “ensured that the Developer Teams proposed sustainable facilities that are safe, secure, and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the American Correctional Association’s guidelines, and other nationally recognized standards, with a driving goal to provide evidence-based rehabilitation to all inmates.”

Under the procurement process agreed to by developer teams, the State’s cost for leasing the three new facilities would be capped at a total of $88 million annually.

Importance

This procurement process is a major aspect of Ivey’s plan to improve the Yellowhammer State’s prison system in a significant, sustainable way.

“The Alabama Prison Program is vital for the long-term success of our state and communities. We all – legislators, advocates, and taxpayers, alike – can and should agree that we must rebuild Alabama’s correctional system from the ground up to improve safety for our state’s correctional staff and inmate population, and we must do it immediately,” Ivey said in a statement.

“Given the failing state of the ADOC’s existing infrastructure and that the Department already is faced with more than $1 billion in deferred maintenance costs alone, pursuing new construction without raising taxes or incurring debt is the fiscally sound and responsible decision,” she continued. “I am pleased with the integrity of this procurement process thus far and look forward to continuing to work closely with the legislature as we comprehensively address this intricate and important issue that affects us all.”

The governor’s office said that it is estimated that the three facilities will feature approximately 37% more programming space per inmate, as well as increased educational, training and recreational/exercise space, which should provide for an enhanced visitation experience for inmates and their loved ones. It is further projected that there will be four times more celled spaces than open dorms as compared to current facilities, which is intended to reduce the potential for violent incidents to occur, enhance safety for both correctional officers and inmates, and improve quality of working conditions for staff.

“This important benchmark demonstrates meaningful progress against our multi-faceted strategy to transform Alabama’s correctional system and empowers the ADOC to shift to a rehabilitative model,” commented ADOC Commissioner Dunn. “It is no secret that the ADOC is facing real, longstanding challenges, most of which are decades in the making and rooted in inadequate, crowded, and structurally failing facilities. Building new facilities that improve safety and security for staff and inmates and allow for effective inmate rehabilitation is the right and only path forward.”

What’s next?

The procurement process will now enter into a confidential negotiation period to ensure and secure the best possible value for the State, the governor’s office advised. The ADOC reportedly intends to negotiate long-term leases for each facility. While the department will operate and staff the facilities, the developer teams will provide infrastructure maintenance and life-cycle replacement for the duration of the lease term.

The ADOC expects financial close for the facilities to occur by the end of this year, at which time the final monetary terms will become publicly available.

The department projects construction to begin in early 2021 and estimates that construction of the new facilities will create thousands of construction jobs: 2,900 construction jobs for the Bibb County facility; 3,900 construction jobs for the Elmore County prison; and 2,800 construction jobs for the Escambia County facility.

In addition to leasing these three new prisons, the ADOC also is exploring options to use Perry County Correctional Facility in Uniontown as a transitional center for inmates who are preparing to re-enter society, which would be an expansion of contracted services currently provided at the Alabama Therapeutic Education Facility in Shelby County.

“Providing adequate and evidence-based programming while preparing inmates for re-entry is a critical cornerstone of the Department’s rehabilitation strategy,” Ivey’s office stated in a release.

Perry County Correctional Facility is privately owned and operated; it is not currently utilized by the State of Alabama.

Additionally, Ivey plans to soon issue an executive order establishing the Alabama Prison Repurposing Commission, a multi-disciplinary group comprised of legislators, local government officials and community representatives appointed to conduct a thorough evaluation of the ADOC’s existing infrastructure.

Several of Alabama’s existing men’s prisons will be replaced by the three new, larger facilities. This is a cornerstone of the construction plan, as consolidation will reportedly lead to major cost savings for the ADOC.

The Alabama Prison Repurposing Commission will make recommendations as to which ADOC facilities should be retained and renovated as major correctional facilities, which could be renovated and repurposed for another use by the ADOC, and which should be repurposed to serve a different purpose, whether by another public entity or the private sector.

Reaction

In a statement on Thursday, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall praised the announcement by Ivey and the ADOC.

“Governor Ivey deserves our gratitude and praise for tackling head-on the toughest issue facing our state, replacing Alabama’s aging prisons with modern facilities that will better serve to rehabilitate the inmate population while also protecting our communities,” stated Marshall.

“Years of delays in agreeing on a plan for their replacement – coupled with ever more costly maintenance – have created the need for action on the part of the State. Taking bold action to bring about this level of positive change is an example of real leadership and Governor Ivey is to be commended,” he concluded.

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

11 hours ago

Steve Flowers: Why a vote for Doug Jones is a vote against the state of Alabama

Our 2020 presidential election is less than two weeks away. We Americans will either elect Republican Donald Trump for another four-year term or Democrat Joe Biden.

In Alabama, we will either elect Republican Tommy Tuberville or Democrat Doug Jones for six-years to serve with our iconic senior Senator Richard Shelby. The winner will be elected to a six-year term in this august body.

Several of you took issue with my statement last week that a vote for the liberal Democrat Doug Jones is a vote against Richard Shelby and the State of Alabama. Allow me to clarify and explain to you as simply as I can why that is true and why I reiterate that declaration.

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The United States Senate is steeped in and governed by time-honored rules and traditions. The most revered and sacred shrine is the vestige of seniority. The rule of seniority is paramount. The longer you serve in the Senate the more powerful you become. Some become more powerful than others. Richard Shelby has become the most powerful and consequential U.S. Senator to have represented our state in Alabama history.

In my 2015 book, “Of Goats and Governors: Six Decades of Colorful Alabama Political Stories,” I have a chapter titled, “Alabama’s Three Greatest Senators.” They are Lister Hill, John Sparkman and Richard Shelby.

Senator Lister Hill was an austere, aristocratic gentleman who was renowned for health care. He was the author of the famous Hill-Burton Act and the father of the renowned UAB Medical Center. He served 30-years in the U.S. Senate.

Senator John Sparkman served in the U.S. Senate for 32-years. He was from Huntsville and is credited with being the father of Redstone Arsenal.

If I were writing that chapter today, Senator Richard Shelby would be alone as Alabama’s most consequential, powerful senator in our state’s history. He is in a league of his own. During his 34-year career in the Senate, Shelby has become renowned as the bearer of good tidings and federal dollars to the Heart of Dixie. If Lister Hill was the father of UAB and John Sparkman the father of Redstone Arsenal, then Richard Shelby can very aptly be referred to as the grandfather as well as great uncle to these two premier Alabama institutions. Richard Shelby is the reason UAB and Huntsville’s Space and Rocket Center are Alabama’s most prestigious as well as Alabama’s two largest employers.

Huntsville has become Alabama’s fastest-growing and most prosperous city and one of America’s brightest high-tech destination locations. The City of Huntsville is soon to become the second home of the FBI. The state-of-the-art Huntsville FBI cybersecurity headquarters will employ over 2,000 very highly paid individuals. This coup for Alabama is due to one person – our senior Senator Richard Shelby.

It is not just Huntsville and Birmingham that have benefitted from Shelby’s prowess and power, it is the entire state. Every corner of the state can point to a Shelby generated road, building, industry, or military installation.

You might be asking, how has Shelby accomplished so much for our state? It is simple. It is federal dollars. Then you might ask, how does Shelby bring so many federal dollars to Alabama? It is simple. He is Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. He appropriates the United States budget, or in other words, he controls the federal checkbook.

In addition to being chairman of Appropriations, Senator Shelby is chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. If you do not think that is invaluable to Alabama, you best think again. There is no state in the nation that benefits more through defense preparedness and dollars in the United States than the good ole Heart of Dixie.

Under the Rules of the Senate, the political party that has the majority of members presides and makes the rules. More importantly, for Alabama, the majority party gets all the committee chairmanships. Our Senior Senator Richard Shelby is a Republican. Currently, Republicans have a slim 53-to-47 majority in the Senate. There are three Republican incumbent senators in Arizona, Colorado and Maine, who are in serious jeopardy of losing. If the Republicans lose these three and one more, then Senator Shelby loses the chairmanship of appropriations and Alabama loses all of its power in Washington. Suppose your vote for Doug Jones, a liberal, national, California Democrat, is the deciding vote that puts the Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate and puts Richard Shelby and Alabama out to pasture.

Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.

12 hours ago

VIDEO: Democrats believe racism is on the ballot, Biden’s problems grow at the worst time, John Merrill addresses voting issues and more on Alabama Politics This Week

Radio talk show host Dale Jackson and Alabama Democratic Executive Committee member Lisa Handback take you through Alabama’s biggest political stories, including:

— Why are some Alabama Democrats saying “racism is on the ballot” this year, and does that help or hurt them electorally?

— Have the issues former Vice President Joe Biden is currently having with his son changed the trajectory of the campaign?

— Does complaining about an opponent not debating actually win over any voters less than two weeks from an election?

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Jackson and Handback are joined by Secretary of State John Merrill to discuss the latest Supreme Court ruling about voting in Alabama and the absentee voting currently taking place.

Jackson closes the show with a “parting shot” at those who think judges should be deciding the rules for voting and not the legislators who were elected to do just that.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN.

15 hours ago

Senate advances Barrett nomination — Shelby votes ‘aye,’ Jones ‘no’

The U.S. Senate on Sunday voted 51-48 to invoke cloture on the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be the next associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

This procedural vote sets up a final vote on Barrett’s confirmation, which is expected to come on Monday. Sunday’s vote was completed shortly before 12:30 p.m. CT.

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) voted in the affirmative on invoking cloture, while U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) voted “no.”

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This comes after the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on Thursday unanimously voted to favorably report Barrett’s nomination.

Shelby met with Barrett in recent weeks; afterwards, Alabama’s senior senator emphasized his strong support for the nominee.

“After speaking with Judge Barrett, I am confident that she is the right choice to serve on the Supreme Court,” stated Shelby at the time.

“Judge Barrett is exceptionally qualified for this role and maintains strong conservative values and a deep commitment to our Constitution. I have no doubt that Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be an excellent addition to the Supreme Court,” continued the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Barrett currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She clerked for the late Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, as well as Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Before and while serving on the federal bench, she was a professor of law at Notre Dame Law School.

“I look forward to supporting Judge Barrett’s nomination to serve on our nation’s highest court, and I urge my colleagues to do the same,” Shelby concluded.

In stark contrast, Jones did not meet with Barrett and admitted that he did not even watch any of her confirmation hearing.

Alabama’s junior senator said at the time, “I have not watched the hearing. I’m in the middle of a campaign. I have not watched the hearings, and I left D.C. when we were there.”

Jones missed all Senate roll call votes Monday, Thursday and Friday of this past week. In total, he was absent from the Senate for 67% of the chamber’s votes during the week. For the votes he did take, Jones supported Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) position all but one time (86%).

Jones last Thursday did have time during business hours to instead campaign for the Biden-Harris ticket virtually in Ohio. This past week, Jones also fundraised for Biden’s campaign, and on Friday Jones campaigned with the cast of the TV show “Will & Grace.”

Last summer, Jones committed to opposing any hypothetical SCOTUS nominee during the final year of President Donald Trump’s current term. Following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month, Jones announced his opposition to anyone Trump would nominate, regardless of merits.

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

and 15 hours ago

College football power rankings: This week was all about Bama, Big Ten contenders and pretenders

The Alabama Crimson Tide seems to be able to pick its score on a weekly basis. And now that the Big Ten season is underway, get ready for the national media to inflate its relevance in the playoff race.

Every week of college football brings a little more information about which teams have the staying power to make a playoff run.

Here is what our experts had to say about this week’s Yellowhammer Power Rankings.

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Paul Shashy’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Georgia
5. Notre Dame
6. Cincinnati
7. Texas AM
8. Oklahoma State

The lowdown: It was a boring weekend for college football with no top ten matchups. We know Ohio State and Heisman caliber Justin Fields belong in the top 5.  As expected, they looked like a playoff team. Speaking of playoff teams, Cincinnati made a strong case this weekend with their thumping of SMU.

Zack Shaw’s ballot:

1. Alabama
2. Clemson
3. Ohio State
4. Georgia
5. Notre Dame
6. BYU
7. Texas A&M
8. Wisconsin

The lowdown: The Big Ten joined the 2020 college football fray this weekend. Ohio State proved to be what we thought they would be, led by standout quarterback Justin Fields. Wisconsin and Michigan also earned big wins in their first games, while Penn State lost by the nose of the football to drop to 0-1. Once the Pac 12 begins play next week, every team will be underway.

16 hours ago

Alabama Power Foundation seeking Classroom Grant applications

The Alabama Power Foundation is now accepting applications for its Classroom Grant Program.

The program focuses on improving and expanding educational opportunities at schools throughout Alabama. This year, the program has expanded to meet additional needs, such as technology support to enhance virtual learning, which has become commonplace as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grants are available to public elementary, middle and high schools to purchase materials, supplies and other resources to enhance learning in the classroom. Grants can also be used to buy sanitation supplies needed to keep classrooms safe and to comply with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on the coronavirus.

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Funds can also be used to support mental health needs for educators and students.

Nonprofit organizations that work with schools to support these efforts are also eligible to apply. Up to $1,000 is awarded per grant.

“Many organizations, including our schools, face unique challenges this year. Overcoming these obstacles isn’t easy and can weigh heavily on students and educators,” said Tequila Smith, president of the Alabama Power Foundation. “We want to find new ways to continue to meet their needs and hope these grants will serve as much-needed support for stability and enrichment in classrooms across Alabama in these difficult times.”

The grants are available to schools in which 50 percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.

The grant program will remain open for the remainder of the school year. Grants are awarded to eligible recipients on a first-come, first-served basis until all funds are exhausted.

For more information or to apply, visit https://powerofgood.com/grant/classroom-grants.

Since its creation in 1989 with funds donated by shareholders, the Alabama Power Foundation has supported Alabama communities, educational institutions and nonprofits through more than 20,000 grants and scholarships, using non-ratepayer dollars. Learn more at https://powerofgood.com/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)