Gov. Kay Ivey says leasing private prisons is an option

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey speaks to reporters about state prisons and other issues on Nov. 7, 2017.(Mike Cason/
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ALABAMA ( — Gov. Kay Ivey said Tuesday that her administration is considering all options for building prisons, including leasing prisons from private companies.

Ivey was asked about last week's announcement that the Alabama Department of Corrections, under her directive, plans to hire a project management team by mid-December to develop a master plan for building and renovating prisons.

Alabama prisons are filled to about 165 percent of their designed capacity and are aging and understaffed. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson has ruled that mental health care in prisons is "horrendously inadequate" and has ordered the state and attorneys representing inmates to propose remedies for the problem.

"It's essential that we in Alabama make the decisions and figure out how to solve the prison situation, both infrastructure and the medical and staffing needs that have been identified by the judge," Ivey said. "But Alabamians have got to take charge. And we've got to make these decisions and we will."

Former Gov. Robert Bentley proposed a plan to borrow up to $800 million to build new prisons and close most of the existing ones. The Legislature considered that plan and other alternatives last year and this year but none of the proposals passed.

Ivey said having prisons built by private companies and then leased back to the state would be an option that would not require the Legislature to approve a bond issue.

"We're considering every option that's available, and that's certainly an option," Ivey said. "There are firms in the nation, some even in the state that build and lease back. So it is possible that if we go this route, the private sector could build and bring the prisons online and the state would lease them back. So you wouldn't have to have a bond issue."

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