Alabama lawmakers hope to resolve state prisons issue in special legislative session next week
New Alabama Prisons: This is the topic of Governor Ivey’s special legislative session next week in Montgomery.
Lawmakers are focusing all of their energy on the state prisons issue because they are subject to a US Department of Justice deadline.
The Alabama Department of Corrections is named in a lawsuit filed by the DOJ, calling conditions in the state prison system “unconstitutional” citing overcrowded, dangerous and fundamentally unlivable conditions for inmates.
Some prisons are crumbling after years of neglect. The Limestone Correctional Facility is one of the newer prisons in all of Alabama, but even it is almost 40 years old.
“We have a crumbling infrastructure when it comes to our largest prisons, and we need to replace them,” State Senator Arthur Orr said.
This is the goal of the next special legislative session, the replacement and construction of new prisons. It is a narrow subject for a complex question.
“We are disappointed that Governor Ivey is limiting the next special session to prison infrastructure instead of focusing on more substantive solutions to Alabama’s broken criminal justice system,” said Dillon Nettles, director of policy and advocacy for the ACLU of Alabama.
Nettles says building new prisons only throws money at the problem, instead of finding solutions.
âThe new prisons are a quick fix and what we really need is leaders to come forward, lead and come up with creative and robust solutions,â says Nettles.
Orr agrees that state prisons should include more rehabilitation programs, but that is not the purpose of the special session.
âThat’s a fair point, but the point is, our prisons date back to the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s that we have and will replace,â Orr said.
The goal of the focused session is to get the new prison bill through both the House and the Senate.
“Governor Ivey is very focused on trying to get this prison bill through, and that is the goal and intention of this whole special session and not to stray too far from it.” , explains Orr.
The ACLU argues that the new prisons will not solve the problem and that the special session would be better spent discussing prison reform and rehabilitation.
âWe don’t need new prisons to do these things and it’s important that Alabamians know that their tax dollars are what will fund these facilities,â Nettles said.
Orr says that even though taxpayer dollars would be spent to build new prisons, it would still cost a lot less than if the federal government took control of the prison system. He expects all bills discussed in next week’s legislative session to pass both the House and the Senate.