State lawmakers speak out on increased prison price

Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 5:19 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 17, 2023 at 6:13 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A panel of state officials approved a resolution to set a new price of $975 million for the construction of the new prison in Elmore County. Lawmakers will have to authorize more funding during the legislative session to fill that gap.

Senate minority leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro County, is on the Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority that approved those changes.

“After we started looking at design, we realized that the education facility and other pieces wasn’t big enough, so we had to give a lot more square footage just to that,” he said.

But inflation is the number one reason for the increase of around $300 million that will come from the state’s general fund.

“Inflation has hit us pretty hard over the last few months, and I think that’s certainly a reflection of that,” said House Speaker Nathaniel Ledbetter.

There are lawmakers opposed to the new price tag. Rep. Chris England tweeted, “Actual prison construction hasn’t even started yet but we are already up to a billion dollars. We haven’t even started talking about paying for the second prison yet. Add this to the billion dollars we are spending on a prison healthcare contract. This is not sustainable.”

Singleton says the price increase is necessary to avoid a federal takeover.

“There’s no need to push back because they don’t need us getting halfway through a project and stop. We have to be realistic about it. We need these facilities,” he said.

Some lawmakers are still upset over $400 million from the American Rescue Plan being used to partly fund the project.

“It still disturbs me as a state that we took $400 million to build some prisons, and we have hospitals and people suffering,” said Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Lee County.

Singleton added that the increase in cost also allowed for a time extension on the completion of the construction, but the $400 million in ARPA funds allocated for this project must be spent by 2026.

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