It was announced last Thursday by Gov. Kay Ivey one of three future men’s prisons in the Alabama Department of Corrections’ facility plan will be located in Elmore County.
The two other facilities will be located near Alabama Highway 139 in Bibb County and near Bell Fork Road in Escambia County.
The announcement Ivey’s office on Thursday did not include expected costs, staffing requirement or specific plans for the existing men's prisons. However, Ivey's office and the ADOC said up to 11 prisons would close, and staffing will be reduced by about 1,059 positions.
Alabama has been in the process of reforming its corrections system by replacing prison facilities that pose the greatest risk to public safety, place the largest financial burdens on taxpayers and inhibit the development of programs for inmate rehabilitation, according to a news release from the governor’s office.
“These improvements are part of Alabama’s commitment to reduce crowding and facilitate statewide prison reform which will save money, make prisons safer, reduce recidivism and improve public safety,” the release states.
Elmore County Commission chairman Troy Stubbs said the commission is appreciative and excited to be a part of the ADOC’s future plans, especially since the current prisons employ roughly 700 residents.
“We want to make sure that those jobs are protected,” Stubbs said.
Stubbs said multiple sites within Elmore County are being considered for the prison, but the commission has encouraged the ADOC to evaluate and exhaust all options to build the prison on land already owned by the state.
“We realize that many factors are at play and our resources are available to help them in any way,” Stubbs said.
Stubbs pointed out there are many factors at play, in addition to finances, when it comes to prisons.
“There’s a community aspect to it as well,” he said. “The construction of prisons is not always received like other economic development projects. There are concerns about the location of the prison, like its proximity to schools and if it will decrease property values. Another obvious concern is safety. We encourage our state leaders to also consider those factors as well.”
Stubbs said the state owns pieces of land adjacent to prisons already located in the county. Although no timeline has been released as to when the state will select a specific site for the prison, Stubbs said he’s gotten the impression from state officials that the process will move quickly.
According to the governor’s office, the ADOC will now enter into negotiations with developer teams that have been vetted by an evaluation team made up of stakeholders from the ADOC and Alabama Department of Finance, including the Division of Construction Management.
It is estimated the new facilities will feature approximately 37% more programming space per inmate, as well as increased educational, training, and recreational/exercise space, which will provide for a more meaningful visitation experience for inmates and their loved ones.
Additionally, it is projected there will be four times more celled spaces than open dorms as compared to current facilities, which will reduce the potential for violent incidents to occur, enhance safety for both correctional officers and inmates, and improve quality of working conditions for staff.
The ADOC intends to negotiate long-term leases for each facility. While the ADOC will operate and staff the facilities, the developer teams will provide infrastructure maintenance and lifecycle replacement for the duration of the lease term. The ADOC expects financial close for the facilities to occur in late 2020, at which time the final financial terms will become publicly available.
The ADOC anticipates construction to begin in early 2021. The department estimates that construction of the new facilities will create thousands of construction jobs: Facility 1 (Bibb County) – 2,900 construction jobs; Facility 2 (Elmore County) – 3,900 construction jobs; and Facility 3 (Escambia County) – 2,800 construction jobs.
The ADOC also is exploring options surrounding the use of Perry County Correctional Facility in Uniontown as a transitional center for inmates who are preparing to re-enter society, which would be an expansion of contracted services currently provided at the Alabama Therapeutic Education Facility in Shelby County. Providing adequate and evidence-based programming while preparing inmates for re-entry is a critical cornerstone of the Department’s rehabilitation strategy.
“The Alabama Prison Program is vital for the long-term success of our state and communities,” Ivey states in the release. “We all — legislators, advocates, and taxpayers, alike — can and should agree that we must rebuild Alabama’s correctional system from the ground up to improve safety for our state’s correctional staff and inmate population, and we must do it immediately. Given the failing state of the ADOC’s existing infrastructure and that the department already is faced with more than $1 billion in deferred maintenance costs alone, pursuing new construction without raising taxes or incurring debt is the fiscally sound and responsible decision. I am pleased with the integrity of this procurement process thus far and look forward to continuing to work closely with the legislature as we comprehensively address this intricate and important issue that affects us all.”