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Alabama prison plan heads to final vote in Legislature

Alabama lawmakers could soon give final approval to a $1.3 billion prison construction plan that would be partly funded with pandemic relief dollars.

Posted: Sep 30, 2021 2:20 PM
Updated: Oct 5, 2021 9:31 AM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama lawmakers on Thursday continued to advance a $1.3 billion prison construction plan that would be partly funded with pandemic economic relief dollars, saying they are comfortable that the expenditure is allowed.

The Senate Finance and Taxation Committee approved the construction plan and related financial bills, including using $400 million of the state’s $2.1 billion from the American Rescue Plan to pay for part of the construction. The approval put the bills in line for a final vote Friday in the Alabama Senate.

Republican Sen. Greg Albritton said the $400 million for prisons is a necessary expenditure and represents a fraction of the billions in pandemic relief dollars that have come into the state, payments ranging from stimulus and unemployment for individuals to grants for government.

“Alabama’s need on the prison matter is acute, and it’s necessary,” Albritton said.

Democratic Sen. Linda Coleman-Madison said she believed some of the money should go to the “self-contained petri dish” that prisons are, but questioned whether state had done enough for health care services.

“I’m concerned right now about hospitals closing, especially in rural areas. When hospitals close in rural areas, that’s a long distance for people to travel and a loss of lives, possibly,” Coleman-Madison said.

The $400 million comes from a segment of the American Rescue Plan funds that provides money to replace revenue lost during the pandemic. The Treasury Department said the money can be used for infrastructure and to strengthen support for vital public services.

“Now without saying, 'Yes, Alabama, you can build a prison,' I think that pretty clearly says, ‘Yes, Alabama, you can build a prison,'" Kirk Fulford, deputy director of the Legislative Services Agency, told lawmakers during a presentation.

The proposal calls for at least three new prisons — one with at least 4,000 beds in Elmore County that would have enhanced space for medical and mental health care needs, another with at least 4,000 beds in Escambia County and a women’s prison — as well as renovations to existing facilities. Six existing prisons would eventually close, a prospect that has brought objections from some lawmakers.

Sen. Democratic Sen. Billy Beasley of Clayton said his district has three prisons, all recruited to provide jobs in the isolated rural area.

“If I lose my facilities, then it’s going to be a devastating blow to the economy of Clayton and Clio and Barbour County, for that matter — and Bullock County,” Beasley said.

Beasley also unsuccessfully tried to decrease the maximum number of inmates the prisons would house, questioning the feasibility of safely running and staffing two 4,000-bed prisons. The committee tabled the proposed amendment.

“I think it’s in the best interest of the correctional officers. I think it’s in the best interest of the inmates,” Beasley said of having smaller prisons.

To pay for construction, the state would also borrow $785 million through a bond issue and tap $150 million in general fund dollars.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 515504

Reported Deaths: 10296
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34999558
DeSoto33360432
Hinds32743643
Jackson24906392
Rankin22565405
Lee16455245
Madison14954283
Jones14158248
Forrest13834260
Lauderdale12311323
Lowndes11357193
Lamar10693140
Pearl River9748244
Lafayette8868143
Hancock7849132
Washington7559169
Oktibbeha7229138
Monroe7068179
Pontotoc7033110
Warren6885178
Panola6791135
Neshoba6744210
Marshall6707142
Bolivar6468151
Union643598
Pike5942157
Alcorn5921107
Lincoln5540136
George510680
Prentiss508285
Tippah495683
Itawamba4884107
Scott478999
Tate4777117
Adams4776125
Leflore4749144
Copiah458195
Yazoo458092
Simpson4566117
Wayne443472
Covington434895
Sunflower4319106
Marion4295112
Coahoma4244110
Leake414191
Newton396182
Tishomingo386894
Grenada3789109
Stone366166
Jasper341266
Attala340490
Chickasaw318367
Winston318392
Clay312978
Clarke301695
Calhoun286850
Holmes272889
Smith270552
Yalobusha244947
Tallahatchie232353
Greene225149
Walthall222166
Lawrence220242
Perry214556
Amite210357
Webster206548
Noxubee188843
Montgomery182157
Carroll175441
Jefferson Davis174343
Tunica163539
Benton153139
Kemper145441
Choctaw137027
Claiborne134839
Humphreys132239
Franklin126530
Quitman107828
Wilkinson106139
Jefferson97134
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 848137

Reported Deaths: 16185
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1164052005
Mobile743681384
Madison53497738
Shelby38435371
Baldwin38195589
Tuscaloosa36152644
Montgomery34562782
Lee25655264
Calhoun22630520
Morgan22530411
Etowah20069520
Marshall18846318
Houston17777426
St. Clair16958359
Limestone16195220
Cullman16157306
Elmore15940295
Lauderdale15069307
Talladega14260302
DeKalb13083271
Walker12168380
Blount10779193
Autauga10560157
Jackson10214196
Coffee9435192
Colbert9366210
Dale9044192
Tallapoosa7285202
Russell710065
Chilton7090170
Covington6969197
Escambia6967144
Franklin6364108
Chambers5801142
Marion5437132
Dallas5302210
Pike5129109
Clarke485786
Lawrence4850130
Winston4793110
Geneva4655136
Bibb435795
Barbour370680
Butler3444101
Marengo342993
Monroe338366
Randolph337867
Pickens334890
Fayette331785
Henry321166
Cherokee320364
Hale319189
Crenshaw261678
Washington256852
Cleburne255460
Lamar253555
Clay252969
Macon246367
Conecuh193562
Coosa186048
Wilcox178538
Lowndes178468
Bullock152845
Perry141840
Sumter139841
Greene130545
Choctaw94428
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