Alabama Prison construction bill approved by committee

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A Senate committee has advanced Gov. Robert Bentley’s proposal to build four new prisons, but not without some questions.

The Senate budget committee approved the bill Wednesday. The vote came on the heels of two violent uprisings at a south Alabama prison that Bentley blamed on overcrowding.

Sen. Cam Ward said the uprisings show that the state desperately needs new prisons.

Bentley is seeking approval for an $800 million bond issue and a bid law change so design and construction can be awarded in one contract.

However, some lawmakers raised concerns about the plan as it heads to an uncertain Senate vote.

Sen. Jabo Waggoner says he is worried Alabama firms will be cut out of the work under Bentley’s “design-build” plan.

Governor Robert Bentley’s office released the following statement after this development:

“For decades, Alabama’s prisons have become increasingly overcrowded, dangerous to both inmates and our corrections officers and incredibly costly to taxpayers. I commend the Senate committee for passing the long needed Prison Transformation Initiative Act out of committee today. This bill will allow Alabama to take the next step toward constructing four new prisons, which will provide safer conditions for our corrections officers as well as inmates in facilities such as Tutwiler Prison for Women. Alabama can and should be a national leader in safe and effective incarceration of inmates. I look forward to continuing a partnership with the members of the Legislature to make Alabama a truly great state.”