Alabama authorizes bond sale to fund two new men’s prisons

A state committee on Thursday approved the sale of $725 million in government bonds to help fund the construction of two new prisons for men in Elmore and Escambia counties.

The Alabama Corrections Financial Authority approved the bond issue in a meeting lasting about five minutes. The amount was slightly less than the $785 million in funding expected when the Legislature approved the $1.3 billion jail project last October.

“We have simple earthworks underway on the projects, and we’d be happy to move forward with construction as soon as possible,” state finance director Bill Poole said after the report. hearing.

The two prisons, which are expected to hold at least 4,000 inmates each, are expected to cost $1.3 billion in total. In addition to the bonds, the state is using $400 million in COVID relief funds and $135 million in general funds to pay for the project. Elmore should have medical, mental health and rehabilitation facilities.

A view of the exterior from the cafeteria windows of the Draper Correction Facility in Elmore County in 2017. Opened in 1939, the Draper Correction Facility was the oldest correctional facility in the state of Alabama until its closure in 2018.

Alabama prisons are wracked by violence, understaffing and overcrowding, and face a US Justice Department lawsuit alleging they violate inmates’ Eighth Amendment protections from cruel and unusual punishment . If the DOJ prevails, the prison system could go into receivership, meaning a federal court could order a number of remedies — from increased spending to releasing inmates — to fix the problem.

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Governor Kay Ivey and former Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn argued for years that state prisons were old, unsafe, and lacked the space needed for rehabilitation and job training programs that could prevent detainees to return to prison after their release. Critics said the problems in state prisons are cultural, and these new buildings will address that.

The Jail Building Authorization Bill calls for the closure of Elmore and Staton Correctional Facilities in Elmore County; Kilby Correctional Institution in Montgomery County and St. Clair Correctional Institution in Springville.

It also authorized the construction of a new 1,000-bed women’s facility to replace the 80-year-old Julia Tutwiler Women’s Prison in Wetumpka, and the renovation of Limestone Correctional Institution and Correctional Institution from Donaldson to Bessemer. It would also authorize the renovation of Bullock Correctional Institution in Bullock County or Ventress Correctional Institution in Barbour. The bill did not provide for a dedicated source of funding for these projects.

Poole said Elmore and Escambia prisons were still in a “design process”, but he planned the facilities housing inmates in several different buildings rather than just one. Poole said they plan to move inmates to prisons in the first half of 2026.

Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Brian Lyman at 334-240-0185 or [email protected].

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