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Prison Reform will Dominate Discussions in State Capital in Coming Months

By Paul DeMarco, former state representative

Prison Reform will Dominate Discussions in Alabama State Capital in Coming Months

The state is in the midst of negotiating with the United States Justice Department on how to solve Alabama’s chronic prison overcrowding.

This past April the Justice Department released the results of a two-year investigation of the state’s prison system and their belief that the conditions in the prisons are unconstitutional.

The allegations against the state’s corrections systems include understaffed prison staff, overcrowding, violence, illegal drugs and weapons. There has been the threat of a federal lawsuit against the state, but state leaders and the Justice Department are collaborating to determine what reforms will be considered to address the problems.

This past session more money was added to the upcoming state budget to increase the number of corrections officers in state prisons. There has been discussion the governor will call a special session this fall or early next year where legislation will be introduced to attempt to solve these issues. However, legislation to address the prison. However, legislation alone is not the only proposal on the table.

In the past week, the governor issued a request for qualifications to eventually build three new regional prisons. It has been estimated that the new facilities could cost up to $900 million. The Department of Corrections Commissioner has said the cost to build the prisons will be made up in savings from running more efficient operations and consolidation of prison cost. The goal is to have those new prisons open by 2022.

Definitive proposals to address Alabama’s prison system will be revealed soon, so you will start hearing and reading more about these reforms in the coming months.

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