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State says COVID-19 relief dollars okay for prison construction


Alabama officials say federal rules do not appear to block Alabama's plan to use pandemic relief funds to build prisons. The Treasury Department in final rules wrote that construction of new correctional facilities is not an allowed use if built as a response to an increase in rate of crime. The Legislative Services' Agency fiscal division said it did not see the rule impacting Alabama's prison plan. The agency says Alabama is using a segment of funds intended to replace lost revenue. The rules allow states to use that money on government services. The idea of using COVID relief dollars this way is considered, by critics, to be controversial. Nearly two dozen organizations have sent a letter questioning the plan. The groups asked the U.S. House Financial Services Committee to investigate the plan to use $400 million dollars in pandemic relief funds to build two super-sized prisons. The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama, The Sentencing Project and others signed on to a letter arguing that it is improper use of the relief dollars. They asked U.S. House Financial Service Chairwoman Maxine Waters to hold hearings on the matter. The APR news team’s six month investigation of the Alabama prison system was honored with a national Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Click below to listen again.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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