Prison plan gets first public debate - Montgomery Alabama news.

Prison plan gets first public debate

(Source: WSFA 12 News file photo) (Source: WSFA 12 News file photo)

Lawmakers Wednesday held a public hearing on the controversial state prison plan.

The plan would build four new prisons with an $800 million bond issue.

Alabama's prisons are the most overcrowded in the country and face major issues with aging facilities, understaffing and healthcare.

Sen. Cam Ward, who is sponsoring the bill, said construction will be necessary at some point.

"Looking at the facilities we have here, talking to the experts in this state, there is one thing that is certain: you're going to build at some point. The question is do you build on your terms or do you build on someone who has a gun to your head telling you how they are going to build them," Ward said.

However, there are a lot of concerns. The state claims the $800 million bond issue will be completely paid for through savings in the plan.

The savings would come from closing 14 facilities and other savings created as a result of the construction. Some though are skeptical those savings will be enough to afford the bond issue.

Some contractors in the state are concerned about the bidding process, while other lawmakers are concerned which prisons will close.

Groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center have argued it will not solve prison problems like mental health.

Regardless of this issue, almost everyone agrees there needs to be some construction.

Ward said the plan will not fix all of the problems with corrections in Alabama but could be a major help. 

Lawmakers didn't vote on the bill but could do so next week.

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