State Sen. Elliott: Consider reopening empty 700-bed Riley-era facility in Perry County before spending $900 million on prisons
Earlier this week, Gov. Kay Ivey unveiled her plan to address the problems facing the state’s prison system, which has been threatened with a takeover by the federal government after a federal judge made a ruling mandating the state make improvements.
Ivey’s plan could cost $900 million according to some estimates and require the construction of three new men’s prisons to replace existing facilities.
During an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN on Wednesday to promote his proposal to do away with municipality police and planning jurisdictions, State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Fairhope) suggested the state take a look at reviving an existing prison facility in Perry County built during Gov. Bob Riley’s administration and is currently vacant.
“The Riley administration did something similar to this, and there is a 700-bed facility in Perry County right now sitting empty,” Elliott said. “I’m not sure the governor is wrong on this. I haven’t seen the details of the plans. It was just announced yesterday. But I would think the first step might be using existing facilities that we have in this state to do just that prior to entering into an agreement like this.”
Another alternative the Baldwin County Republican lawmaker suggested was to house some inmates at county jails and compensate the sheriffs of those respective counties for the housing.
“And I’ll also submit, and I am a former county commissioner – sometimes I go back to these roots – but I also say that we have a lot of empty jail beds in this state, hundred of empty jail beds in this state right now,” he added. “And they are located in our county jails. If the Department of Corrections were willing to pay the sheriffs a minimum daily rate of $30 a day to house a prisoner, I think a lot of our county jails would be willing to take those prisoners on and say, ‘You can put 50 of them here. You can park them here for a couple of months.'”
“That’s fine,” Elliott continued. “If you need to move, if this is at the end of their sentence, and you want to put them back in Madison County, or put them in the Limestone facility, or put them in Etowah County, as they assimilated back into their daily life, closer to their families for the last year of the sentence, or something like that. I think there are some nice, easy ways to solving that problem as opposed to riding into an $800-to-900-million plan.”