Alabama corrections commissioner still pushing prison plan

Alabama corrections commissioner still pushing prison plan

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The state's prisons plan died on the very last day of session this year, leaving the prison system among the most overcrowded and understaffed in the country, but Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn is not giving up.

He will push the plan once again at his first opportunity.

"The choice is really do we spend the money wisely and reinvest in the department or spend the money the way we've been doing it for many years and not invest in new infrastructure," Dunn said.

The plan involves building four new prisons with an $800 million bond issue, paid off through savings in construction and the closing of older facilities.

However, some lawmakers seem to have had questions about the big price tag.

"So I understand the 800 million is a big number, and if we were asking for new revenue I would agree with that, but this is money the system is going to spend whether this plan gets passed or not," Dunn said.

With the average facility approaching 40 years old, Dunn said the state really won't save any money if it decides against building the new prisons.

"So the need to transform the department is going to stay there until we deal with it but we are only going to to incur more and more cost as the infrastructure ages," Dunn said.

It's an issue that could involve a federal takeover if the problem goes unsolved. Dunn said he is trying to make sure he has support for the bill the next time it's before the legislature.

"I think the next time we get the opportunity, we will see a better outcome," Dunn said.

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