Alabama legislators said Thursday that they would continue with plans for two super-sized prisons despite the fact that the initial cost estimate was nearly $1 billion.
On Wednesday, the Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority raised the spending limit for Elmore County’s 4,000-bed prison from $623 million up to $975 million. Alabama Finance Director Bill Poole stated that the cost increase was due to inflation and design changes.
“I wish it wasn’t there, but as you all know, inflation has hit us pretty severely over the past few months and that’s certainly a reflection,” Nathaniel Ledbetter, House Speaker, told reporters.
Ledbetter was asked if he believes the state can build both prisons. Ledbetter spoke out in reference to the ongoing state prison crisis.
Republican Rep. Rex Reynolds said that he was warned that an increase in the House general fund would be necessary. “That’s tough. Reynolds stated, “That was something we didn’t expect when we first voted for the bond money.”
ALABAMA PRISON SYSTEM RAISES OFFICER PAY TO RECRUIT STAFF
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However, some Democrats were critical of the move.
Although actual prison construction has not yet begun, we have already raised a quarter of a billion dollars. The second prison is still not being funded. Add this to the $1 billion we’re spending on a contract for prison healthcare. “This is not sustainable,” Democratic Rep. Chris England tweeted.
In 2021, Alabama legislators approved a $1.3 Billion prison construction plan. This plan tapped $400 Million from the state’s federal pandemic relief dollars to build two super-sized prisons in Alabama.
The U.S. Department of Justice is suing Alabama for violating the constitutional rights of male prisoners. It claims that the state has a system “dense with guard-on prisoner violence and prisoner-onprisoner violence.” In an earlier report, the Justice Department stated that the problem was caused by the disuse of facilities, but added that “new facilities alone won’t solve the problem” due to management problems, corruption, violence, and other issues.