ALABAMA – Prison reform continues to be a focus for lawmakers and the governor. The state faces the possibility of legal action from the US Department of Justice after it determined Alabama’s prison conditions were violating the eighth amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.
The State of Alabama is under the microscope of the Department of Justice. Throughout the 2019 legislative session, there was talk of a special session to address prison reform. Now, Senator Arthur Orr says he thinks that might not happen till next year.
“Late January or February of next year,” said Senator Orr (R-Decatur).
Orr believes Governor Ivey’s call for new prison construction will satisfy the DOJ.
“I think as long as they are seeing progress by the state and seeing the Ivey administration make progress through RFQ’s and then RFP’s and continue to move the ball forward down the field, I think any litigation or court action by the Department of Justice will be stayed, or they will kind of lay back and see what steps the state is taking,” he said.
Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Corrections are taking steps to build three new prisons in the state. Thursday, the governor’s office requested interested developers to submit their qualifications to the state. Orr said the governor is not circumventing the legislature in announcing the construction plan.
“This all part of the process and it’s just important that she and the Department of Corrections be very methodical, have all their T’s crossed and their I’s dotted,” Orr said.
At the same time, the governor has not released any details on how much this could cost state taxpayers. Orr says during the Bentley administration building new prisons from the ground up came with a high price tag.
“We were talking in numbers anywhere from 6,7,800 million up to a billion. So, those were kind of the parameters of that conversation again the Ivey administration may be coming with a different recommendation or plan which may be much less costly,” he said.
Governor Ivey has also not said how the state will pay for the new prisons.
Orr says it is too early to tell if the state would need to get a bond or if it would find the money in the budget.
Interested developers have until August 2nd to submit their qualifications. There is a form on the ADOC website.