A new prison debuts, but more changes are coming

March 15, 2017

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

A new prison bill made its anticipated debut Tuesday, but by the time it hits a Senate committee on Wednesday, it’s likely to have some company in the House.

The new bill, which is sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward, removed the State from most of the process, allocating just $100 million – a far cry from the original $800 million proposed Gov. Robert Bentley and Ward – and makes that amount available only if two municipalities obtain bonds to build two facilities.
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Questions hang over massive prison bill

February 20, 2017

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

The push to build four new correctional facilities at the cost of $800 million will soon begin in earnest. Still, many questions are left unanswered by legislations known as the Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative (APTI). The plan at present says the estimated $1.5 billion bond issuance will be paid by savings in the ADOC budget over the next 30 years. It also assumes proper medical and mental health care will result by consolidating facilities, and that the new high-tech prisons will reduce prison staffing needs. Governor Robert Bentley and Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) Commissioner Jeff Dunn are warning lawmakers of an imminent threat of Federal intervention if actions are not taken immediately.
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State Auditor Ziegler pitches another prison reform plan

December 14, 2016

By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

Jim Ziegler has a plan for Alabama’s prison problem.

At a press conference Tuesday morning, the Alabama State Auditor laid out a 12-step plan – which he dubbed “Plan Z” – to correct Alabama’s overcrowded prison issues. Ziegler said his Plan Z would cost taxpayers only a quarter of the $800 million reform plan being pushed by Gov. Robert Bentley.

However, Ziegler conceded that the savings of his plan aren’t documented, that many of his proposals need to be fleshed out and might not be workable and that several of his proposals will be controversial.
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Many Stumbling Blocks To Prison Reform

October 3, 2016

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Governor Robert Bentley wants to float $800 million in bonds to build new prisons. Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) Commissioner, Jeff Dunn wants that, too. Some State Senators believe Bentley and Dunn are using the recent prison violence as a way to gin up support for their plan. They also think Dunn is implying a takeover by the federal authorities is imminent.

No one in their right mind who has toured Alabama’s crumbling prisons would deny there are problems of epic proportion. Outside of Bentley, Dunn and the companies knowing they may gain millions in borrowed State money, it would be difficult to find anyone willing to spend nearly a billion dollars, in a no-bid scheme known as design-build, to construct Bentley’s dream prisons.
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We Get What We Deserve

May 11, 2016

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

I’m often criticized for picking on the Republican political leaders in Alabama. I’m accused of everything from being a Democrat to being a “libtard.” I admit to being a liberal. But I’m not a Democrat. I’m an Independent. I vote for Republicans and Democrats – whomever I deem best qualified in a particular election.

However, if I am to observe and comment on state government in Alabama, inevitably, the focus is going to be on Republicans. They are in charge. Republicans hold every constitutional office; they have supermajorities in the House of Representatives and state Senate. They occupy every seat on the Alabama Supreme Court. All but one member of our congressional delegation are Republicans – some of them about as whacky as many of our state-level officeholders.
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Bentley Wants His Prisons

May 10, 2016

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

In an Op-Ed at al.com, Gov. Robert Bentley signaled, that he may call a Special Session to try, once again, to pass an $800 million prison construction project. Bentley said, the massive spending project failed because, “We simply ran out of time in this Regular Legislative Session to finally address Alabama’s prison overcrowding problem.” He also wrote, “That legislation failed in the final minutes of this session. But that doesn’t mean we won’t reach that goal.”
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The Artist Cher Nailed It Long Ago

April 28, 2016

 

By Jack Campbell

When recording artist Cher released the hit “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” in 1971, she never envisioned that song would characterize the leadership of the GOP in Alabama some 45 years later. Even the people who are not historically tuned in to current affairs realize our state Party is headed for a disastrous future, plagued by public officials who are tainted by greed, extramarital sex, thievery, and secret, backroom deals.
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What Prison Reform Means in Alabama

April 12, 2016

By Stephen Cooper

Working as an Assistant Federal Defender in Alabama for three years, I visited many state prisons.  More often than not, the conditions I observed my incarcerated clients in were deplorable.  Sadly, when I raised red flags of concern with officials, shoulders shrugged — folks just did not care.  Instead, at each turn I was met with an attitude — an attitude that I submit needs dramatic adjustment — especially as Alabamians consider whether investing $800 million dollars to build new prisons is a good idea or not.  The attitude goes a little something like this:
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Senate Passes Bentley’s Prison Bill

April 6, 2016

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Tuesday, April 5, the Alabama Senate passed Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s (R) controversial plan to close sixteen prison and borrow $800 million to build four new prisons.

Governor Bentley released a statement on the Senate Passage of his Great State 2019 initiative, the Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative Act.

Governor Bentley said in his statement, “Today is another significant step in the effort to address the prison issues, as the Senate cleared a critical hurdle in transforming Alabama’s decades old prison system through the Prison Transformation Initiative Act. I commend the Senate for taking a bold and decisive step toward prioritizing public safety in our prison system with the construction of four new prisons. The passage of this bill will help reduce overcrowding and will provide safer conditions for corrections officers as well as inmates within the facilities. New facilities will also create greater opportunities to reduce the risk of recidivism. As this legislation moves to the House, I look forward to working with House members to pass the Prison Transformation Initiative Act.”
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Debate Over Design-build verses State Law Continues

March 23, 2016

By Bill Britt
Alabama Politcal Reporter

MONTGOMERY—The battle: Design-build vs State-Law-mandated Design-bid-build, for the $800 million prison project has become so contentious, that Gov. Robert Bentley is reportedly ready to kill the whole project if the contract for construction is not awarded under Design-build, rather than the traditional bid process.

Gov. Bentley’s office has refused to state the selection criteria that will be used to pre-qualify the contractors under Design-build, and has also denied requests to provide the selection criteria that will be used for the proposal process to select the eventual winner.
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