Bibb Co. woman starts petition to block new prison, why prison in Brent can’t be renovated

Updated: Sep. 6, 2020 at 9:33 PM CDT
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BRIERFIELD, Ala. (WBRC) - Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Corrections announced Sept. 3, that the state planned to begin negotiations with developers for three new prisons.

One of the prisons is proposed for Bibb County where some residents were furious and said they would do whatever it took to keep the prison from opening.

Brierfield, AL resident, Josie Dunn, started a petition and in a matter of days had gotten more than half of the community’s population to sign it.

“There’s a big safety concern. Also, the detrimental effects this could have on property values. No one wants to raise a family with a prison in their backyard,” Josie said.

Dunn was against the state building a new men’s prison in the small town of fewer than 1600 people.

The proposed location for the new prison is near AL-139 and County Road-2.

“There’s already another prison in Brent; so, I’m not sure why they can not make renovations to that. It sets on 200 acres that’s not being utilized. Why are they not able to renovate or add on to that,” Dunn asked. “Why disrupt another community with a mega-prison with what I am told is going to house over 3,000 inmates? It’s not small by any means.”

Governor Kay Ivey released news of the state beginning negotiations with developers Thursday. In that release, the Gov. said: “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.”

According to Ivey’s press release, the state proposed leasing the buildings which would be built by private investors. Dunn said the community should have more of a say in the matter since taxpayer dollars would be used in the process.

Dunn says she planned to go door-to-door to collect more signatures before submitting it to the Governor’s office. She also hoped to have community meetings with developers and elected officials in the near future.

Sen. Cam Ward said the new prison would be high tech and safely contain the upwards 3,000 male inmates.

But safety wasn’t the only concern for Dunn who proposed the state renovate or rebuild the Bibb Correctional Facility located in Brent- about 20 miles away. Sen. Ward said that was not an option.

“It was built in 1996. It’s one of the newest prisons yet it was one of the first to close because of the swampland it’s built on,” Ward explained.

Ward said it’s his understanding the state was set on building the new prison in Brierfield but he said more needed to be done by state leaders and private developers before they broke ground.

“Come out there talk to people so people can ask the hard questions. Mainly because I am hearing a lot of folks tell me, ‘I don’t know what this means for me. I’m scared and I’m worried’ and, that’s justifiable,” Ward said.

To read more on the state prison reform plan, click here.

WBRC will continue to follow this story as it develops.

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