Draft of Alabama prison plan calls for $785M in additional funding

Tutwiler Prison for Women. Source: WSFA
Tutwiler Prison for Women. Source: WSFA
Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 7:35 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - There are now just five days until a special session in Alabama, aimed at dealing with the ongoing and expensive crisis that is our state’s prison system. This all comes amid the growing pressure from the federal government, which has threatened an intervention if Alabama doesn’t solve problems like overcrowding, understaffing and violence inside prison walls.

WSFA 12 News received a copy of the drafted prison plan, which allows the state up to $785 million in additional bonds to implement their plan. Rep. Steve Clouse chairs the general budget fund committee where a portion of the money will come from. Clouse also will sponsor the bill.

“(By) building the bigger prisons, we’ll be able to save money on, particularly overtime by building facilities that are more highly technology-driven, so you don’t have to have as many guards per prisoner,” said Clouse.

This is one way the state plans to save money in the long run. To fund the new prisons, the draft of the bill reads, “It is the intent of the legislature to fully fund phase I of construction with a combination of issuing of bonds authorized by this act.”

Phase one includes building two men’s mega-prisons. The draft proposal states that once that is 60% completed, “it is further the intent of the legislature, that future phases of the plan set forth in this act shall be funded on a pay as-built basis.”

$400 million from the COVID-19 relief fund will be used as well. Clouse said this is less than 20% of the $2.1 billion available from this fund.

“By using part of this money we’re going to be able to lower our interest payments on the bonds, which will save money in the general fund, which will enable us to be able to have more money in other parts of the general fund budget, such as Medicaid or Department of Human Resources or Department of Senior Services or the ALEA department,” said Clouse. “The list goes on and on.”

Once the state is in compliance with the Department of Justice, Clouse says it will be a “win, win, win” situation for taxpayers, saving them money in the long run.

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