MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WDHN) — Alabama raised roughly $500 million from bond sales out of an anticipated $725 million. Despite the shortfall, Gov. Kay Ivey has said it’s a positive step forward, but others wonder if the plan is viable.
Dana Sweeney is a statewide organizer for Alabama Appleseed’s Center for Law and Justice. He says the two 4,000-bed prisons planned for Elmore and Escambia counties are not the answer for criminal justice reform.
“If we build two gigantic new prisons, we can be sure the state of Alabama is going to fill them, so this is a doubling down on the sorts of policies that have already failed our communities,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney is also concerned that without sufficient funding, corners may be cut or money will be diverted from other sources.
“If we continue to put more and more money into our unconstitutional prison system, necessarily, other services will go unfunded,” Sweeney said.
State Rep. Reed Ingram doesn’t think that’ll happen. He says over the course of the four years the construction is expected to take, costs could fluctuate and the shortfall may not be as big as it currently looks.
“A lot can happen in between now and the end of the construction time so we really don’t know, and I don’t want to speculate, but we hope it gets better in terms of labor and cost of materials,” Ingram said.
Ingram represents part of Elmore County, which he says has benefited economically from prisons and will continue to from the new prison. He says roughly 1,000 people will be employed from it and hundreds more jobs will be created from the construction.
“It’s huge on Elmore county. As far as being able to keep those jobs and grow those jobs, and then for the few years that we’re going to be building a prison as far as construction work and being able to keep those jobs in Alabama, it’s huge,” Ingram said.
Ingram estimates the prison will have a $180 million impact annually on Elmore County.
The State Finance Director has said the prisons are still expected to be open by 2026.