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Critics of Alabama prison plan say new buildings are not enough

Alabama State House
Stan Ingold
/
Alabama Public Radio

Alabama’s special session on prisons could be wrapping up soon.  Legislation on a plan to build three new prisons in the state is now with the Alabama Senate.  The state house voted seventy-five to twenty-five to use four hundred million dollars in COVID relief dollars to help pay for it. Dillon Nettles is with the A-C-L-U of Alabama. He said the problems with Alabama’s prisons will not be fixed with new buildings.

“We’ve been down this road before, building new prisons because of crumbling old ones, and just like last time, they’re putting the cart before the horse by focusing on infrastructure instead of the management, corruption, and the culture problems that really urgently need to be addressed now.”

He also said real prison reform is needed more than anything.

“How do we take charges of things like low level drug and property offenses, offenses that today, those people could really just use rehabilitation for and in ensure those people are getting into programs and trainings and getting the mental health support they need to be able to come back into the communities.”

Critics are also concerned that the deal includes uses four-hundred-million dollars in COVID relief money. Governor Kay Ivey says those dollars can be used to replace revenue lost during the pandemic.

The Department of Justice sued Alabama last year over inmate violence, unsafe and unsanitary conditions. APR’s national award winning investigation into prison reform can be found at apr.org.

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