Alabama bypasses bid process to move fast on prison builds

The state of Alabama intends to move quickly on building new prisons under a plan that uses some of the state's pandemic relief funds and could skip the normal bidding process.

Posted: Oct 5, 2021 9:30 AM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama intends to move quickly on building new prisons under a plan that taps pandemic relief funds and could skip the normal bidding process for the construction of two supersize facilities.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday signed into law the $1.3 billion construction plan to build two 4,000-bed prisons and a new prison for women and renovate other facilities. The plan taps $400 million from the American Rescue Plan — money the state has already received — and could steer the construction contracts toward companies that previously qualified for the work.

The construction bill signed into law bypasses the normal bidding process for the two 4,000-bed facilities. It specifies that the state instead can negotiate directly with entities that were part of development teams that qualified for the projects under a lease plan that Ivey’s administration had pursued but abandoned. Those entities include Birmingham-based construction giant BL Harbert International and Montgomery-based Caddell Construction. Caddell and BL Harbert are expected to be the main contractors for the two prisons, Republican Sen. Greg Albritton said.

Lawmakers said working with those companies will allow the state to incorporate the prior work, saving both time and money.

“The main thing is time, and time is of the essence. This is going to enable us to start these projects 12 months in advance, and time is money,” said the bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Steve Clouse.

House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, defending the selection language, said the companies previously went through a selection process under the lease plan. The law specifies that if the state doesn't reach an agreement with one of those companies, officials will start over with a fresh selection process seeking bids on the work.

Alabama officials will have the money to start construction after lawmakers approved $400 million in virus funds and another $150 million from the state’s general fund, in addition to agreeing to borrow $785 million through a bond issue.

“We can start this construction now with the money we have on hand now ... without having to wait to float bonds,” Albritton said. “I believe we’re going to see dirt flying in January."

The U.S. Department of Justice has sued Alabama over a prison system “riddled with prisoner-on-prisoner and guard-on-prisoner violence.” The Justice Department noted in an earlier report that dilapidated facilities were a contributing factor to the unconstitutional conditions but wrote “new facilities alone will not resolve” the matter because of problems in culture, management deficiencies, corruption, violence and other problems.

Dozens of advocacy groups objected to the prison construction plan.

“We do not believe the issues facing Alabama’s prisons are about the buildings,” said Bryan Stevenson, executive director and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

“We think it’s entirely about leadership, culture and the practices," Stevenson said. "I just think engaging in a costly effort around new prisons is not going to solve the problem and worse is distracting us from dealing with the prisons.”

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 497379

Reported Deaths: 9907
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34085530
DeSoto31806398
Hinds31796621
Jackson24303377
Rankin21852387
Lee15413233
Madison14513278
Jones13770241
Forrest13401250
Lauderdale11936314
Lowndes10908184
Lamar10461135
Pearl River9428237
Lafayette8450137
Hancock7690126
Washington7361156
Oktibbeha7110129
Monroe6713173
Warren6635175
Neshoba6606204
Pontotoc6603101
Panola6458131
Marshall6378132
Bolivar6264145
Union595194
Pike5780152
Alcorn5630100
Lincoln5416134
George490479
Scott470698
Tippah464981
Prentiss464181
Leflore4626143
Itawamba4590104
Adams4570119
Tate4539109
Copiah444691
Simpson4419116
Wayne438572
Yazoo437586
Covington427194
Sunflower4215104
Marion4206107
Coahoma4114104
Leake407287
Newton380879
Grenada3691108
Stone358264
Tishomingo355991
Attala330189
Jasper328065
Winston312891
Clay305875
Chickasaw296567
Clarke290294
Calhoun277645
Holmes266587
Smith262550
Yalobusha232347
Tallahatchie225251
Walthall217663
Greene215448
Lawrence211140
Perry204555
Amite203454
Webster201645
Noxubee184940
Montgomery178956
Jefferson Davis170642
Carroll167338
Tunica158539
Benton147038
Kemper141241
Choctaw133026
Claiborne131037
Humphreys128838
Franklin119128
Quitman106227
Wilkinson104339
Jefferson94234
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 811551

Reported Deaths: 15101
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1138721885
Mobile720161315
Madison51829685
Shelby37203339
Baldwin37018538
Tuscaloosa34853599
Montgomery33879718
Lee23097239
Calhoun22095468
Morgan20584368
Etowah19727496
Marshall18224298
Houston17270405
St. Clair15884337
Cullman15257289
Limestone15177197
Elmore14944283
Lauderdale14060294
Talladega13653270
DeKalb12530258
Walker11055363
Blount10071174
Autauga9874146
Jackson9760177
Coffee9171188
Dale8850180
Colbert8768200
Tallapoosa7028194
Escambia6714127
Covington6661179
Chilton6571160
Russell623458
Franklin5926105
Chambers5553142
Marion4942126
Dallas4848199
Clarke472681
Pike4713105
Geneva4557126
Winston4456101
Lawrence4247116
Bibb421186
Barbour355274
Marengo333889
Monroe329062
Randolph324663
Butler323694
Pickens313479
Henry310365
Hale308586
Cherokee299257
Fayette289779
Washington250850
Cleburne245758
Crenshaw243075
Clay238867
Macon229862
Lamar214846
Conecuh185051
Coosa177338
Lowndes173061
Wilcox166738
Bullock151744
Perry137940
Sumter130738
Greene125344
Choctaw86527
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A cold front passing through our area overnight will bring into our area some of the coolest temperatures of the season so far. We will see most of the highs this weekend only in the upper 60s to lower 70s. While overnight lows will drop off down into the 40s Saturday night.
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