MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - State officials are looking at ways to stem the issues brought about by the partial closure of Holman Correctional Facility and the relocation of more than 600 of its inmates.
The inmates were taken to other facilities, but the Alabama Department of Corrections is already dealing with overcrowding on a statewide level.
One possible solution lies in rural Perry County where a relatively new prison facility, the Perry County Correctional Center, has been sitting unused for years in Uniontown.
Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, says there are discussions about the vacant facility and that he’s had a discussion with Gov. Kay Ivey about possibly using it. But the state would have to buy or lease it. That’s because PCCC is a private prison.
It’s unclear what the costs would be to acquire the facility.
Singleton, who serves as the Senate minority leader, said he’s been trying to get the state to buy the prison for seven years but said the discussions only escalated with Holman’s closure earlier in the week.
Singleton says the vacant prison has 700 beds, which would be more than enough to cover those relocated from Holman.
Costs might not be the only factor the state would have to consider, though.
Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said that while the facility “has the ability to expand to double” its current size, there is an issue. “It’s not designed for maximum-security inmates," Ward said. "And I don’t think you can put your Holman folks there. It’s just not designed for that.”
Gov. Ivey’s press secretary, Gina Maiola, said the prison has been part of an ongoing discussion and that “all options are on the table,” but cautioned there’s no formal plan at this point.
The prison first opened in 2006 under the ownership of Louisiana-based LCS Corrections Services, but cost issues quickly became a concern with prison system officials who said they didn’t have enough money to pay the private lockup to hold its overflow of inmates.
In 2009, following the escape of two inmates, the state pulled 250 inmates from the facility. The state cited financial issues as the reason.
In 2010, the Alabama Legislature came close to approving a $60 million bond issue to buy the prison.
GEO Group, which says it’s the world’s largest private sector provider of correctional and rehabilitative services, bought the facility from LCS as part of a multi-state facility package deal in 2015.
GEO Group released the following statement:
“We can confirm that we have been in discussions with the State of Alabama regarding the potential purchase of the Perry County Correctional Center. In fact, in prior years, the State Legislature appropriated funding for the purchase of the facility; however, these previous attempts were never completed by the State.”