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.
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.
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.”
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.
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