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State Seeks Developers for New Men's Prisons

Thu April 18, 2019 - Southeast Edition #9

The Alabama Department of Corrections is looking for developers interested in building three men’s prisons.
The Alabama Department of Corrections is looking for developers interested in building three men’s prisons.

The Alabama Department of Corrections is looking for developers interested in building three men's prisons that the state would then lease from private owners.

News outlets reported responses for the DOC's request for expressions of interest were due April 10. The DOC said leasing the prisons may cost about $78 million annually. The prisons would each hold more than 3,000 inmates. By contrast, the most populated Alabama prison held fewer than 2,100 inmates in December.

A recent U.S. Department of Justice report on Alabama men's prisons detailed horrific conditions including rape and extortion. It said it was reasonable to believe the conditions violate the U.S. Constitution.

"We appreciate the U.S. Department of Justice's efforts to ensure open lines of communication with the state of Alabama," Gov. Kay Ivey responded in a press release. "DOJ has identified many of the same areas of concern that we have discussed publicly for some time.

"Over the coming months, my administration will be working closely with DOJ to ensure that our mutual concerns are addressed and that we remain steadfast in our commitment to public safety, making certain that this Alabama problem has an Alabama solution."

The DOC said construction of the new prisons may cost about $900 million. Democratic Rep. Christopher England said the proposal effectively bypasses the Legislature, which allocates agency money.

The DOC plan to build new prisons will allow for enhanced security through updated structures and the implementation of current technology resources, according to the release. Such facilities also will allow for the integration of medical and mental health services and provide safer environments for inmates and staff.

"Our primary objective is to ensure each facility provides a humane, secure, and safe environment for inmates, and that reforms already in place and proposed bring about positive, tangible changes throughout the prison system," Commissioner Jeff Dunn said.

Efforts for the improved hiring and retention of correctional staff have been bolstered with the Legislature's $86 million funding appropriations in 2018 and 2019 for hiring additional correctional and health services staff.

These efforts continue with a $31 million request for ADOC's proposed 2020 budget, which would help the department hire 500 new correctional officers and increase the pay scale for all security personnel.

"In response to DOJ's findings, it is important to understand all the current efforts ADOC has taken and will continue to take to improve the conditions of confinement within the male prison system," Dunn said. "Gov. Ivey's commitment to working closely with the Legislature to resolve this generational problem will ultimately lead to a 21st-century prison system." CEG

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