Gov. Ivey calls special session to address prisons

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 3:16 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 17, 2021 at 4:49 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Gov. Kay Ivey has called a special session of the Legislature to address Alabama’s ongoing state prison issues.

In a letter to lawmakers, Ivey said the special session will be on Sept. 27. She intends to issue the formal proclamation next week.

Last week, Ivey sent a letter to legislators asking them to address “urgent” prison matters, including overcrowding, infrastructure and inmate services like substances abuse and mental health treatments.

The governor said she prefers the Legislature to handle these issues to avoid federal intervention.

“As you know, the state of our current prison infrastructure is untenable,” she wrote on Sept. 7.

Ivey had asked lawmakers to develop a plan quickly. She said this special session is the next step, saying the Legislation has had time to familiarize themselves with the details.

“As I have stated before, this is our moment - this Legislature and this Administration - to lead our state in a bipartisan manner to solve a problem that has plagued us for decades and that, if not properly addressed, will continue to set us back for decades to come,” she wrote in the special session announcement.

Legislators say a proposed plan includes building two new men’s prisons in Elmore and Escambia counties, as well as renovating the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women. However, there are still disagreements on this and other areas they should address.

Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, released a statement after the governor called for a special session:

“The Governor is calling this special session to address an issue that has hung over the head of our state for decades. The Governor, along with House and Senate leadership, have worked together to develop a plan to finally tackle this problem once and for all, and to do so in a fiscally-conservative manner. The stakes are high – without taking action on this issue, the federal government could take control of our prison system at a high cost to Alabama taxpayers, and could even result in the forced release of prisoners. It’s time to finally resolve this issue for the people of Alabama.”

A special session is called when there is unfinished business that can’t wait another year. Lawmakers will have 12 legislative days to meet over the course of 30 consecutive calendar days. This will cost taxpayers around $400,000.

In comparison, a regular Alabama legislative session, which spans 15 weeks, costs taxpayers roughly $1.5 million.

Lawmakers’ salaries are not included in that total. Each brings in more than $51,000 per year. Other expenses, like mileage and travel allowance, are accounted for in the overall session costs.

In a special session, legislators can only meet and vote on the issue the governor lists in her formal “call,” which in this case is prisons. However, lawmakers could take up another issue if two-thirds of both the House and Senate agree.

While the upcoming special session will focus on prisons, it may not be the last for the year. Another special session to address redistricting is also expected.

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