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House Democrats respond to prisons, corrections plan

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Alabama House Democrats released a statement in response to the Alabama Department of Corrections release of the strategic plan to comply with Department of Justice Regulations related to the state’s failed prison system.

“Alabama’s plan to address the humanitarian crisis in our prisons must include more than simply building new facilities and hiring staff,” the House Democrats said. “House Democrats support a holistic, comprehensive criminal justice reform plan that includes serious sentencing reform, improved staff and leadership training, and increased accountability and oversight to address the culture of violence in our institutions. Further, elected officials in Montgomery must invest in our state by improving schools, making mental and physical healthcare more accessible and affordable and creating higher paying jobs – thereby reducing crime and the unacceptable number of incarcerated Alabamians.”

“ADOC, Governor (Kay) Ivey and the Republican supermajority continue to refuse consideration of proven, evidence-based methods for addressing the systemic problems in our prisons,” The Democrats continued. “This strategic plan is just another step in the wrong direction, as was the killing of a marijuana decriminalization bill by a single vote earlier this session.”

“Alabama has the most violent prisons in the nation, and our facilities remain at 164 percent capacity,” the House Democrats wrote. “Bricks and mortar will not change the culture of violence that threatens the safety of guards, support staff and inmates alike. Sentencing reform will more quickly, effectively and safely reduce our prison population, boost our workforce and expand our tax base in the process.”

There are 24,000 Alabamians housed in 70- to 80-year crumbling facilities that are chronically understaffed, overcrowded and are the most dangerous prisons in the country, and the U.S. Department of Justice is putting pressure on the state to improve the conditions in which these people are housed. The Alabama Political Reporter asked House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, D-Huntsville, how this isn’t the biggest crisis facing Alabama state government. Daniels said he did not see this as the biggest crisis in the state.

“What about the 350,000 people in this state who do not have healthcare because we did not expand Medicaid?” Daniels asked.

Daniels said the state had budgeted the money for the hiring of 500 more corrections officers, but he had no confidence in the people who are currently running the prisons to be able to even hire those new officers.

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Assistant House Minority Leader Merika Coleman said she is for addressing the issue that causes people to commit crimes and go to prison.

On Tuesday, the lottery failed when most House Democrats voted against the BIR for the lottery bill. Following the vote, House Democrats said they did not want to spend that lottery revenue on new prisons, but instead favored earmarking the money for education and Medicaid expansion.

Written By

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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