State Sen. Elliott: ‘Frustrated’ to hear members of the legislature say prison solution ‘a mountain too high to climb’
Skeptics abound as leaders from the legislative and executive branches work toward a solution to Alabama’s decades-long prison problem.
As the Justice Department has taken action in federal court against Alabama for violations of the Eighth Amendment, members of the legislature met with Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama Department of Corrections commissioner Jeff Dunn last week to devise a framework after the Ivey administration’s lease-build plan fell through.
State Rep. Steve McMillan (R-Foley) said he was one of the skeptics, noting this was an election year and the Alabama Legislature does not traditionally pass significant legislation in the fourth year of a quadrennium with elections looming.
McMillan’s Baldwin County colleague State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) pushed back against the notion that election difficulties would be too much to overcome to find a working solution to the prison problem.
“I was obviously [in Montgomery] having those discussions yesterday and the day before, and trying hard to find a workable solution, a conservative solution that protects public safety and also protects our budgets,” he said. “That’s really the challenge. I’m very frustrated to hear some of my colleagues say this is a mountain too high to climb. Man, that’s just very undermining when we’re trying to work on and solve this problem. As you well know, and we’ve talked about before — if we don’t fix this problem, the feds will likely fix it for us. And moreover, if we don’t show that we are making progress and act like we are trying, the feds will likely come in and take Alabama’s prison system over. And if that happens, it will devastate our budget, and it will likely result in a mass release of folks that are currently incarcerated for good reason. We’ve seen that happen all over the country. And it is my job and the job of the executive branch working together to avoid that. And that is what I am keenly interested in making sure we do right now.”
Elliott acknowledged that given the recent history of the Alabama Legislature’s inability to get significant legislation passed, there was reason for skepticism but said that was not a reason to be outright dismissive of the possibility of finding a solution.
“That’s not unfair, and it’s certainly something we’re going to have to deal with, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to try, and it doesn’t mean that Senate is not going to try, and it doesn’t mean that we don’t have some very good House colleagues that are willing and able to try,” Elliott said. “They’re just going to have to bring the balance of those House colleagues along, and that’s frankly something that is probably going to be our biggest challenge. But I was pleased in meetings yesterday to really see the [Alabama Department of Corrections] commissioner really working with the legislature. Look, I haven’t always been the easiest guy on this administration and the Department of Corrections — but a total sea change and a really good working attitude, understanding the need to fix this problem in a way that works for the legislature, works for the people of Alabama in a way that keeps us safe and keeps us out of federal receivership.”
@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.