Earlier this week, reports surfaced the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) had entered into a public relations contract valued at $1.5 million, which is coming at a time when the agency is facing heat for a controversial lease-build prison construction plan and the scrutiny of the U.S. Department of Justice for alleged Eighth Amendment violations.
The contract with Birmingham’s Markstein was brought up last week at the State House and was the topic of criticism from both sides of the aisle.
During an appearance on Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5 on Friday, State Sen. Chris Elliott (R-Daphne) suggested several different approaches for the ADOC to aid its public relations efforts, including what he referred to as an “open and honest” approach with the Alabama Legislature.
“I say this a little tongue-in-cheek — I don’t think that’s nearly enough,” he said. “They’re going to need a whole lot of money to make this look good. It’s that bad of a plan. They are in that big of trouble. Listen, they’ve got 4,000 inmates that they’re currently housing in county jails around the state. They have not hired the personnel the legislature has budgeted time and time again for them to hire. They’re screaming, ‘We don’t have the people. We don’t have the people.’ The legislature has time and again provided everything they’ve asked for. And yet, they’ve not used it. So, they’re going to have to answer for all of this. And if they think a million-and-a-half bucks to a PR firm is a good use of public money, I think they’re going to need to justify that, too. But you’re not going to save the reputation of this department and this administration’s tact on how to deal with this with a public relations battle. It’s too far gone, in my opinion.”
“How about this public relations strategy: Be open and honest with the Alabama Legislature about your prison construction program?” Elliott explained. “Be transparent about it. How about this for a public relations strategy: When you stand up in a budget hearing, and you tell the budget committees that this is all it is going to cost, and this is going to be covered by the savings, don’t come back later and say, ‘Oh, we forgot to tell you it is going to be a whole lot more expensive than that. How about this for a public relations strategy: Be open and honest in your dealings with the legislature, and try to find a solution and the legislature can be a part of it instead of simply signing a contract the day before the legislature comes into session, and say, ‘Hey, that’s it. It’s done. I’ve handled it. This is what we’re going to do.'”
“That to me sounds a whole lot more straightforward and a much better lot better public relations strategy than shoveling money to some other entity to try to make what you have already done — it doesn’t look very good than just throwing money at it,” he added.
@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.