Massive prison plan waits movement in AL legislature

Updated: Feb. 20, 2017 at 4:38 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - What Gov. Robert Bentley called his number one priority for the 2017 legislative session has yet to take its first major step in the statehouse. The Prison Transformation Initiative Act has yet to be brought up in committee.

"We are serious about the prisons," said Senate pro tem Del Marsh. "It's a serious issue for the state of Alabama."

Lawmakers acknowledge there is a problem with the state prison system, and the main plan seems to be the governor's initiative. That plan has been out for more than a year and calls for building four new prisons for with an $800 million bond issue. The plan also calls for the closing of 14 other prison facilities.

The key to the act comes in how to pay for it. The governor said the entire bond issue will be paid off by savings created in the consolidation of the prison system.

"If this will do it, if it will pay for itself and we can solve this big problem with prisons, then I am for the whole bill," Marsh said.

However, some lawmakers want to question those numbers. If the numbers do not work out, potential scaled down proposals, which spend less money for fewer prisons, could be around the corner.

"If the numbers aren't justifiable, then we start looking at what is," Marsh said. The decision will be based on what I know. I've got to get to what we know and not what I think."

According to Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), the plan, for now, is to have the prison bill in committee next week.

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