Familiar Questions Arise Over Alabama Prison Construction Plan

Alabama’s overcrowded prisons are once again front and center at the State House.

The governor’s plan to build four new prisons and demolish the aging facilities came up in a senate committee and lots of people for and against the plan were in attendance.

It’s basically the same plan with the same name, the Prison Transformation Act.

Lawmakers couldn’t work it out in either a regular or special session last year, but Prison Commissioner Jeff Dunn says they have more data to back up the $800 million cost.

“While the plan itself, the core components of the plan remain the same, the data verifying the plan and its feasibility and it’s workability is greatly increased,” said Dunn.

Lawmakers held a public hearing that went on for almost two hours on the prison subject alone.

For every supporter of the plan, another person stood against it.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says building prisons isn’t the answer to the problems inside the walls.

“Alabama need not invest millions and millions, in fact a billion dollars into building new facilities when in fact we need a multifaceted approach that will deal with the over-incarceration problem in Alabama,” said Ebony Howard with the SPLC.

Dunn fielded questions about what’s being done to help with mental health and other rehabilitation efforts inside the prison system. He says there’s no doubt about the issue, but better facilities are needed before we can see more change.

“This is about fixing one component of the criminal justice system in Alabama. But from our perspective it’s the key component that prevents us from going forward. We maintain that unless we do this plan, we aren’t going to be able to substantially improve our medical, our mental health, our ability to provide programming,” said Dunn.

Categories: Montgomery, News