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Governor Ivey considers special session on prisons

DECATUR, Ala. - State lawmakers could be heading back to Montgomery before the next regular session to focus on the state prison issue.

"I know Governor Ivey is looking at potentially calling the legislature back into special session," said Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur).

The state prison system has been a hot topic for two legislative sessions, with facilities overcrowded, becoming worn out, some with locks that aren't working appropriately.

After dedicating early time and resources toward Robert Bentley's impeachment, time ran out on lawmakers before they were able to pass anything.

Now Governor Ivey is awaiting a Montgomery judge's ruling on the state prison system.

"District Judge Myron Thompson down in Montgomery is looking at several different issues regarding ADA compliance, another is mental health treatment available for our prisoners," said Sen. Orr.

It's expected the judge will give the state years to remediate any problems he mentions, and if the state fails to handle them, Alabama's prison system could be facing a federal court takeover.

Senator Orr says Ivey is particularly concerned about the cost factor.

"Governor Ivey also is looking at purchasing a private prison already thats available down in south Alabama. That facility has been available for some time and I know the Ivey administration was taking a fresh look at it down in Perry County," he said. "The Department of Corrections was hesitant to take it over because, quite frankly, they said they couldn’t find the people to staff the prison it was in such a remote location."

If the governor does call a special session, Senator Orr has an idea of what prison construction plan could pass.

"Something that gives the goals the ability to attract or have a facility built in their area with them putting some skin, some local match money into the pot to secure such a facility and the jobs it’ll bring for a very very long time."

Orr adds that as the governor weighs different proposals, she needs to 'work the votes,' establishing a consensus with lawmakers and different entities around the state. He says that will make it easier for a plan to come together seamlessly if they do convene in a special session.