Alabama special session sees introduction of alternative prisons bill
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - As Alabama lawmakers continue to sort through the current prison plan in a special session, an alternative bill has emerged.
On Tuesday, Sen. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton, introduced his version, Senate Bill 6. He said he brought it forward after considering the current $1.3 billion proposal, which he believes is too expensive. Beasley called his plan a cost-saving measure, but it wasn’t immediately clear exactly how much it would cost.
“I have three prisons in my district, which are some of our newest facilities; and I do not see the need to close these facilities in an effort to create two 4,000-bed mega-prisons,” Beasley said. “I know that the prisons are overcrowded throughout the state; and we have to address the issue, but I believe we should build smaller facilities.”
Beasley’s plan calls for building two new prisons, one each in Elmore and Escambia counties. But, unlike the current prison plan, the alternative bill calls for no more than 3,000 beds per facility. The Escambia facility would not break ground until the Elmore prison is complete, the Beasley’s bill would require.
“I have done some research and most southeastern states have no more than 2,000 prisoners per facilities,” Beasley said. “After the Elmore facility is almost complete, we would begin on a new women’s prison.”
The Elmore County facility would be used to provide mental health services, general medical services, education, and rehabilitation services.
The alternative bill also calls for the total renovation of the prisons in Jefferson, Limestone, Barbour, and Bullock counties and the purchase of the Perry County facility. The Perry County facility, the bill adds, would be used in conjunction with the Bureau of Pardons and Paroles to train prisons before being released to reduce recidivism.
Beasley supports prison reform, saying the state needs to address the problems inside the current facilities, not just the buildings. He also wants to add more correctional officers and to pay them more.
Beasley said his bill has some support but hopes it can get traction in the Alabama Senate. It will come before the General Fund Committee on Thursday at 9 a.m.
He said he feels good about getting the bill passed.
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