Monday, State Senator Jim McClendon, R-Springville, said that presently he thinks that there will not be a special session this fall on prisons.
Sen. McClendon said that during the session it was the general understanding that the legislature would come back in a special session in the fall to address the prison situation; but now the feelings is that the legislature will not do a special session; but instead will address the prison issue when they come back in February for the 2020 regular session.
“That is going to be one expensive proposition,” McClendon said. “We have too many prisoners, too few corrections officers. and totally dilapidated facilities.”
“I have toured Donaldson Correctional Facility and of course, St. Clair. It is a bad, bad place,” McClendon said. “If I go back it is going to be in handcuffs.”
McClendon said that the conditions that the corrections officers work in are very demanding. I know they make a living; but it is very challenging.
McClendon said that there is a padded room in Donaldson where they put a prisoner who is on suicide watch for having threatened to kill themselves.
“There is a waiting list. It is the only room that is air conditioned,” so prisoners report they are suicidal so they can added to the waiting list in order to get to spend a day in the air conditioning and out of the brutal heat.
“We have got the feds on top of us,” McClendon said. “For not providing the healthcare they need. For not providing the rehab that they need, the healthcare they need
McClendon said that the state is talking with the Justice Department and “They give you some clues on what we need to address.”
“If we do what they want us to do they won’t take over the system, if we don’t they will,” McClendon said. And we won’t like some of the things they will do if that happens.
McClendon said that the state is focused on football in the fall and there are costs to having a special session. We have got to bring the staff back. A special session costs a couple hundred thousand dollars.
McClendon said that they would like to avoid that and address it in February but that decision is ultimately up to the governor.
One member of the audience asked where they were going to get the billion to build the new prisons.
McClendon said that we don’t have any way of getting a billion. It appears that the Governor is going to do a design build agreement with private companies and sign a lease agreement. We have a two billion general fund. We will have to move $80 or $90 million over to pay for that. That is a lot easier than coming up with a billion, we can’t do that.
McClendon assured the audience that it will not be paid for through a property tax increase.
McClendon was addressing the St. Clair County Farmer’s Federation at their monthly meeting in Ashville.
Jim McClendon represents portions of St. Clair, Shelby, and Talladega Counties in the Alabama Senate.