By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Politcal Reporter
Thursday, November 17, 2016, Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R) said that he opposes Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley’s (R) plan to borrow $800 million or more to build new prisons in an anticipated January special session.
Auditor Zeigler said, “Gov. Bentley is threatening a $400,000 special session to push his $800 million no-bid contract for four mega-prisons at sites he selects. It would indebt Alabama taxpayers for 30 years. I am almost finished with “Plan Z”, a common sense alternative that would cost 75% less and not allow the Bentley cronies to control this huge contract.”
Zeigler said, “We must rise up and defeat this $800 million Bentley boondoggle.”
On Thursday, October 6, 2016, the US Justice Department opened an investigation into Alabama’s overcrowded and underfunded Department of Corrections. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) said that he welcomed the investigation.
Gov. Bentley said in a statement then, “I welcome an investigation by the Department of Justice into Alabama’s prisons. We both share a common goal of wanting to improve the safety of the officers and inmates within the facilities. I have personally met with representatives from the Department of Justice, and following those meetings the Alabama Department of Corrections made several critical changes to Tutwiler Prison for Women. I have also had the opportunity to personally meet in Washington DC with Attorney General Loretta Lynch and discuss the issue of overcrowding in Alabama and across the country. I shared with Attorney General Lynch the Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative announced earlier this year. This plan includes modern prisons that will reduce overcrowding and improve safety conditions for inmates and corrections officers.”
In February, Gov. Bentley proposed borrowing $850 million to build four massive prisons in one unbid contract to a construction company chosen by the Governor. The controversial plan died in the 2016 Legislative session.
Gov. Bentley said, “I welcome the opportunity to continue to work with the Department of Justice and continue the efforts to make Alabama prisons better. This issue of overcrowding is a decade’s old issue that must be addressed. I am looking forward to again working with the Alabama Legislature to permanently solve this problem.”
Bentley has been using pressure from the Obama Justice Department to build support among legislators for his prison plan, that would cost the people of Alabama well over a $billion over the life of bond issue.
State Representative Phil Williams (R-Huntsville) said on social media, “This week we had a legislative lunch to talk about many issues. There is a rumor that a special session will be called by the Governor in January to debate a bill that would allow for borrowing $1-2BILLION to build a few prisons.”
Rep. Williams said, “When a family borrows a STUPID amount of money it’s called “taking on debt”. When state government borrows a STUPID amount it’s called “leveraging the asset. Yep we have overcrowding in the state prisons and it’s dangerous and something must be done, but making our kids pay interest for years and years is not the way. PS Any legislator that says, ‘quick let’s borrow money while rates are low’ probably made a C- in finance class.”
Some legislators have told the Alabama Political Reporter that the state should not deal with the outgoing Obama Administration. Loretta Lynch and President Barack H. Obama will be gone in January. Those legislators suggest that while the state needs to address its long neglected prison system; it would be better to negotiate a settlement with incoming President Donald J. Trump (R) and his Attorney General appointee Jeff Sessions (R) rather than leaving the people of Alabama on the hook for over a $billion in bonds to pay for Bentley’s four mega-prisons.
Auditor Zeigler has been a vocal critic of the Bentley administration and Bentley’s history of writing large unbid contracts.