MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama Department of Corrections plans to contract out with a marketing firm for $1.5 million to help manage the many challenges it faces.
The ADOC has contracted out with the company Markstein Consulting for the past year, which has cost the state $600,000. However, the department has amended that contract to bump the cost to $1.5 million.
“Given the complexities of the longstanding challenges facing our correctional system, coupled with the need to operate with speed and urgency to address these challenges and communicate with the public, our communications partner’s services are critical to the ADOC’s overall transformation and ability to share information effectively and transparently around complicated issues of public concern,” said Interim Departmental Spokesperson Kristi Simpson in a statement.
A representative for the ADOC gave a presentation to the Contract Review Legislative Oversight Committee about the $1.5 million contract.
Several lawmakers said they were concerned about cost of the contract since the state plans to build three new regional prisons for about $3 billion over 30 years.
“If we’ve had this PR firm for a year, why we’re not firing them? Why we’re increasing the contract? Because I think they’ve done a terrible job,” said Rep. Danny Garrett, R-Trussville.
State lawmakers can’t stop the contract from going into effect, but the committee decided to put a hold on the contract for 45 days.
“We’re getting ready to spend $3 billion over 30 years to build new prisons and you want to throw another $1.5 million out there just to cover up the crap in the department of corrections instead of just fixing it? It’s just kind of a slap in the face,” said Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa.
The ADOC said they currently have one full-time employee in the Public Information Office.
“Our contracted communications partner assists us in addressing the many crisis issues that arise unpredictably, as well as other emergent internal and external communications needs that the department has,” Simpson said in an email.
Simpson said the firm helps with Department of Justice findings letters, litigation, the COVID-19 pandemic, issues of violence, staff corruption, and security issues.