By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Politcal Reporter
On Thursday, April 28, the Alabama House of Representatives voted to pass Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s (R) Great State 2019 plan to borrow $800 million to build four massive new prisons, each housing over four thousand inmates. SB287 would green light Bentley’s plan to build four massive new prisons at a cost of $50 million a year for thirty years.
State Representative Tim Wadsworth (R-Arley) said in a statement, “Prior to Starting the 26th Legislative Day numerous legislators joined together to publicly oppose the $800 million prison bill. The bill proposes tearing down all existing prisons and building 4 brand new prisons and borrowing 100 percent of funds to build these prisons and then using tax dollars to pay for these prisons. This group of legislators including myself stand strong against this bill. We believe that it is fiscally irresponsible to go forward with this bill. No economic impact studies have been completed.”
State Representative Napoleon Bracy (D-Mobile) said, “What’s wrong with this picture? The Alabama Republicans just passed an $800 Million ($1.5 Billion over 30 years) bill to build new prisons. Our schools are falling apart, our kids don’t have adequate up to date text books. Instead of building more prisons we should be figuring out ways to educate our children so they never have to see the inside of a prison. They used this picture of all white males in an attempt to get sympathy votes in the Alabama House of Representatives to pass the bill. This picture is a lie and it does not resemble the unfair sentencing of the Alabama Judicial System and the makeup of Alabama Prison System. Alabama prisons are at 200 percent population, 3rd highest incarceration rate in the nation and 70 percent African American males. Even yesterday the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court’s son had drug charges dropped without even going to court. If his son looked like me… I think you already know where he would be.”
Gov. Bentley said, “With the partnership of the Alabama Legislature, we can solve the issues and make the Department of Corrections more efficient.”
Critics argue that the state should not be mortgaging its future to build expensive new prisons.
Gov. Bentley countered on twitter, “We cannot move our state forward without addressing the issues that have plagued the prison system for decades. #GreatState2019”
State Representative Kerry Rich (R-Albertville) said that new Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn was a “very bright man” who has come up with a plan that will work. Rep Kerry Rich” said, It makes sense to me we are going to do away with some of these old prisons that have been there for decades.”
Dunn claims that he can find $50 million a year by decreasing maintenance, overtime, and staff.
The legislation was carried in the House by Representative Mike Jones (R-Andalusia). Jones offered and passed a substitute version of the bill on the House floor which he said addressed many of the members concerns.
The Bill passed the House 52 to 33. 19 legislators elected not to vote. One member abstained.
Since the House substantially changed the legislation, it has to go back to the Senate.
There are only two legislative days left in the 2016 session.