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DeMarco: Governor moving forward with addressing state prison woes but questions remain

By Paul DeMarco, former member of the Alabama House of Representatives

BIRMINGHAM — There has been a lot of discussion on how to solve the state’s continued problems with its corrections system. Over the past five years, there have been several proposals, but they have failed to gain traction in the Alabama Legislature.

Thus, Governor Kay Ivey is moving forward with her own plans to attempt to address overcrowding and violence in the state’s prisons.

Recently five companies responded to the Governor’s office request for qualifications to build three new prisons which would replace most of the existing men’s facilities in the state.

The state could potentially accept proposals for the construction of the new prisons by a private company which would then lease the facilities back to the state.

However, there are a lot of questions about this project that could cost over $900 million.

First and foremost, state residents need reassurance from the governor that if older facilities are closed, there will be enough beds in the new buildings to handle those felons that are already in prison or have been sentenced to prison.

Another concern is how long will the state contract be with the private companies and at what cost? The state will be dependent upon and at a disadvantage when negotiating with these private companies once the old prisons are no longer maintained or demolished.

The state does not need to build new facilities and close older prisons if that means releasing violent criminals on the street.

If that is the case, we are better off making any necessary updates and moving forward with the older prisons.

Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives

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