ADOC gives update on construction of new prison

The Alabama Department of Corrections commissioner gave a presentation to lawmakers about the progress on the prison's construction.
Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 5:56 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2023 at 6:57 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner John Hamm gave a presentation to lawmakers about the progress on the construction of Alabama’s new specialized men’s prison in Elmore County.

Hamm said the site is 300 acres inside the fence, and it will have 50-plus buildings on it. The prison will open in May 2026 and house 4,000 inmates.

Stormwater pipes, sewer pipes, under-slab plumbing and building foundations are currently being installed.

The buildings are based on an inmate’s needs, such as mental health and medical treatment. A standard cell can hold eight inmates.

So far, it’s costing $973 million to build. That’s up from the $623 million when the contract was signed in 2022. And the price tag could increase again.

“We’re getting to a point where everything that we’re spending is a billion dollars on construction, a billion dollars on health care,” said Rep. Chris England, D, Tuscaloosa County.

England said ADOC’s problems won’t go away with a new prison. He suggested the state needs to grant more inmates parole to improve the living conditions in the state’s current prisons.

“You and I need to work together to reasonably identify the folks that could be better served outside the facility rather than in,” said England.

“I have to manage the population with the resources I have, but I would like to have some conversations of what kind of options are available to the Department of Corrections to manage that population,” said Hamm.

A resource ADOC lacks is staff. Hamm said they are short 700 corrections officers.

“When we can get someone to come in for an interview, they decline because they don’t want to work for corrections because of what they’ve read or seen in the news,” he said.

ADOC held an officer graduation last week, but Hamm said the situation is dire.

When the new prison opens, all staff from the Elmore, Staton and Kilby facilities will be transferred.

The law that authorized the building of the new prison includes a plan for two more new prisons - one in Escambia and another to replace Tutwiler women’s prison in Wetumpka.

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