MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday the state will begin accepting bids to create three new megaprisons in an effort to consolidate older facilities.
The plan could include building three new regional prisons that would house between 3,000 and 3,500 inmates. One of the prisons would be a specialty prison for inmates with mental illnesses.
The Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn said new prisons would help fix the problem. The current prisons pose a great risk to public safety and are in poor shape.
“The system that we have right now is causing challenges,” Dunn said.
Dunn said estimated costs for the prisons would be around $900 million.
Ivey says all options are on the table for how the state would pay for the prisons. The state could hire a contractor to lease the facilities to the state, which would not require legislative approval.
The state could also issue a bond which needs approval from lawmakers. Lawmakers rejected a bond issue for a similar plan in the past because of concerns that closing prisons in these regions would have a significant impact on the economy in those areas.
Dunn said in the long run the new prisons would pay for themselves because of the cost savings from closing the older prisons.
The commissioner said they do not know where the new prisons will be located and the bidders submitting plans will need to take into consideration the types of commutes staff will need to take.
“Everyone who has a job in the system now will have a job in the new system,” Dunn said.
Alabama’s current prisons are under court order to meet staffing levels. The prisons are also overcrowded and do not provide adequate mental health care.
“It’s a problem we Alabamians must solve, not the federal courts,” Ivey said.
The marketplace for bidding is open. Officials say the bidders would need to follow certain parameters outlined in the RFP. The governor anticipates the new prisons to open in 2022.
The Southern Poverty Law Center responded to the plan. They said they agree with many of Gov. Ivey’s observation about the crisis the prisons are facing. They do not believe the plan addresses the roots of the problem.
Here is Gov. Ivey’s op-ed about Alabama’s Prisons: