MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Despite growing controversy surrounding the deal, Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Corrections signed lease agreements Monday on two new privately built mega-prisons that will be built in Elmore and Escambia counties.
Ivey’s office released a photo of her signing the leases, flanked by two large stacks of documents sitting on a table in her Capitol office.
“I am pleased that we have reached this important milestone in the Alabama Prison Program, the cornerstone of a multifaceted strategy to address the ADOC’s longstanding challenges and failing prison infrastructure,” Ivey said in a statement her office released with the photo. “ADOC’s existing dilapidated infrastructure is failing at a rate of one facility every two years, exorbitant deferred maintenance costs are rising by the day, and the Courts may act imminently if real progress is not made soon – given all these risks, there is not one minute to spare.”
The agreement to build two men’s prisons was signed with Government Real Estate Solutions of Central Alabama, LLC and Government Real Estate Solutions of South Alabama, LLC., both of which are entities of mega-prison owner/developer CoreCivic.
One will be built on Rifle Range Road in Tallassee while the other will be located at Bell Fork Road near Atmore. A third proposed mega-prison, to be located in Bibb County, was not included in Monday’s lease signings and is not associated with CoreCivic.
Ivey’s office also said the final costs of the leases will be released once a financial close is finalized with CoreCivic, but added those costs are “subject to the overall project affordability limit of $88.6 million in fiscal year 2022 dollars.”
The governor’s plan expects to pay for the new prisons through cost savings from the closures of other prison facilities.
Ivey’s office has faced concerns from political leaders and outside groups that are opposed to the use of private prisons, some legislators who want to see more documentation on how much the leases will cost the state, and residents opposed to the construction near their communities.
Among those opposing the plan is Alabama Democratic Party Chairman, Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa. England tweeted about the proposal saying:
“Alabama is about to spend 3 billion dollars over 30 years on building new prisons that won’t fix the problems within our prison system. Also, as a reminder, after paying the money, at the end of 30 years, we won’t own either the buildings or the land they sit on.”
England also questioned what the new prisons would fix in a state corrections department asking ”How are new prisons going to stop the rampant violence, corruption and abuse within our prison system and also help reduce our prison population? Are these new buildings going to come with a new commissioner and parole board too?”
Ivey said leasing new prisons without raising taxes or taking on new debt " is without question the most fiscally responsible decision for our State, and the driving force behind our Alabama Solution to an Alabama Problem.”
“Leasing, staffing, and operating modernized prison infrastructure that is owned and strictly maintained by the private sector minimizes our short- and long-term risk for an initiative of this necessary magnitude,” added ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn. “These facilities will provide a safer, more secure environment in which our heroic staff can better deliver effective, evidence-based rehabilitative programming to our inmate population.”
ADOC expects construction on the prisons to start in 2021 and be ready for use by 2025.