By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Gov. Robert Bentley may convene a Special Session in the spring so the Legislature can consider his $800 million prison construction bill, which failed last spring in the Legislature’s Regular Session.
“We have discussed the possibility of a Special Session maybe within the session or right before the session starts,” Bentley said Thursday. “I don’t want to disrupt the Christmas season or the time right after Christmas.”
Bentley said he wanted to isolate the issue in a Special Session so the Legislature would have to focus on his bill. He said he believed it would have a better chance of passing that way.
The 2017 Regular Session begins in February. The governor said he would try to convene the Special Session in January or embed the Special Session with the Legislature’s Regular Session.
Bentley first proposed the prison construction bill last spring, which would have allowed the State to borrow $800 million to pay for four new prisons in the State. The State’s current prisons are holding nearly twice the prisoners they were designed to hold.
“We’ve got a real problem in this State,” Bentley told the Associated Press. “Our correctional officers are being injured and killed, and really it’s due to overcrowding and the conditions in our prisons.”
The bill had the support of then-Speaker Mike Hubbard (R-Auburn) but failed late in the Regular Session. Bentley signalled back in May, in an opinions piece on AL.com, that he would consider calling the Special Session.
“We simply ran out of time in this Regular Legislative Session to finally address Alabama’s prison overcrowding problem,” Bentley wrote at the time. “That legislation failed in the final minutes of this session. But that doesn’t mean we won’t reach that goal.”
In recent months, the US Justice Department announced an investigation into Alabama’s men’s prisons to determine safety and sanitary conditions. There has also been an investigation into Alabama’s women’s prison after allegations that prison guards were sexually assaulting women.