State Sen. Billy Beasley’s (D-Clayton) Senate District 28 could be one of the big losers if a proposed prison plan is approved during a special session next week by the Alabama Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey.
Senate District 28 is home to three prison facilities — Easterling Correctional Facility in Clio, Ventress Correctional Facility in Clayton and the Bullock Correctional Facility in Union Springs.
During an appearance on Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5’s “The Jeff Poor Show,” Beasley said he was concerned municipalities that bet on having the Alabama Department of Corrections as a customer for its water and sewer infrastructures could still be financially on the hook without its largest customers.
Beasley said he would fight efforts to shut those facilities in his district down.
“[I]’m concerned about the liability that we have in regards to the expenditures from our towns and cities,” he said. “And I want legislation in this special session that will make sure that these towns are made whole from the expenditures that they have if the facilities were to be closed.”
“I am going to use everything in my power to make sure that the facilities in my Senate district are not closed,” Beasley added.
Beasley vowed to offer an amendment during the special session to require the state to make those municipalities standing to lose from the prison proposal whole and said he would have a price tag associated with his amendment when that time came.
The Barbour County Democratic lawmaker also said he thought the smaller facilities were still a better approach to corrections than mega-prisons on the grounds that they were safer and more efficient.
“[I] don’t think it is going to be cost-effective,” he said. “The inmates are prisoners. They’re not hotel guests. You’ve got to make sure you protect the safety of the inmates. I know in facilities in my area, we have had very few breakouts. We’ve had a lot of assaults in the facilities. It takes all our correctional officers can do to separate those fights and make sure the inmates are protected.”
According to an early draft of the plan, one of the three facilities in his district will survive the cuts and be rehabbed for future use. However, Beasley said it could also be the elimination of all three facilities and the construction of one new facility.
“I got wind a few days ago they may demolish all three and build one, but I’m not sure where that one is going to be and a facility of 1,000 inmates,” he said. “I just don’t understand that logic at all. You could renovate the facilities in my district because we have about an extra 100 acres at Ventress, about 100 acres at Easterling and the Bullock County facility has about 100 acres or more. We could expand those facilities, as well.”
He added that he also had concerns about the financing of the proposal and said he was skeptical of claims that maintenance savings would make up the difference.
“I’ve been told the Corrections Department thinks you could pay for these facilities with what you save on maintenance,” he said. “I just don’t understand that logic at all because you can build a new home or new office building. You are always going to have maintenance issues. I just don’t understand that logic at all. I’m concerned about how we’re going to have $50 million in debt service for the bond issues that we’ll be floating.”
@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.