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Private prison, detention companies spending on Alabama politicians

Eddie Burkhalter



Geo Group, the nation’s largest private prison and detention center company, is investing in Alabama’s lawmakers just as the company hopes to land a portion of the state’s nearly $1 billion contract to build three new prisons. 

Other players are also investing in lobbyists and lawmakers to compete for a share of the prize.

Geo Group gave at least $80,000 to Alabama lawmakers in 2017 and 2018, while CoreCivic spent just $4,500 those two years. (Figures taken from campaign finance reports and compiled by the Montana-based nonprofit National Institute on Money in State Politics.)

Gov Kay Ivey has received a combined $12,500 from Geo Group and CoreCivic in 2017 and 2018. 

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, received the most campaign contributions from private prison and detention center companies, taking in $22,500 since 2011, but his selection in 2011 to be chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security makes him an outlier. As chairman Aderholt headed the congressional committee that funded the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

The two largest private prison and immigrant detention center companies in the U.S. – Geo Group and CoreCivic (formerly called Corrections Corporation of America) – received a combined $358 million in ICE contracts in 2018. In 2011 and 2012, while serving as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee, Aderholt received $12,500 from Geo Group and CoreCivic. 

The Center for Immigration Studies found that on a single day, Sept. 22, 2012, private prison and detention center companies housed 67 percent of all immigrant detainees in facilities those companies owned and/or operated. 

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Geo Group and CoreCivic gave Rep. Aderholt a combined $17,000 between 2011 and 2015. In 2017 and 2018, he brought in $5,500 from Geo Group. 

Carla Crowder, Director of the Montgomery-based Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, in a message to APR on Saturday said the hefty campaign contributions are disappointing, but not surprising given the millions of dollars that private prison companies have poured into other states in order to keep their shameful business model afloat.

“Other states are moving to reduce their reliance on private prison companies.  More and more banks are refusing to provide financing to these corporations that profit off the incarceration of human beings, even children,” Crowder said. “Our elected leaders seem willing to embrace for-profit incarceration, even as other states have learned the hard way that its expensive, harmful, and not good policy.”


Crowder noted that politicians in other states are returning or refusing campaign contributions from Florida-based Geo Group over the company’s role in immigration detention centers. Ten members of Congress in 2018, either gave Geo Group’s donations back or refused it, according to Open Secrets. 

“I would love to see the same here in Alabama, especially given all that is at stake with prison reform in our state right now,” Crowder said. “The public-private partnerships being proposed would leave Alabama taxpayers and our children on the hook for close to $1 billion to our-of-state companies who are working feverishly to buy favor with state leaders.  It does not have to be this way.” 

Then-Gov. Robert Bentley in 2016, announced the Alabama Prison Transformation Initiative Act, which called for construction of four new prisons through an $800 million bond issuance. That legislation failed, was brought back up in 2017, and failed again. 

Gov. Kay Ivey was appointed governor in April 2017, following Bentley’s resignation, and soon floated the idea of leasing new prisons from private companies, who’d build and finance them. Ivey announced in August the five companies in the running to build one or more of three planned new prisons are: GEO Group, Corvias, LLC, Corrections Consultants, CoreCivic and Alabama Prison Transformation Partners. The three prisons are to be built between two companies, according to ADOC’s request for qualifications. 

In 2017, records show Geo Group began spending on Alabama lawmakers in earnest, and the pace of that spending continued through 2018. 

All seven members of the legislative prison oversight committee received donations either directly from one of the two large private prison and immigrant detention center companies or the companies’ PACs, or from lobbyists who work for the companies. It’s important to note, however, that those lobbying firms represent many clients, so campaign donations don’t necessarily mean the money was given to politicians on behalf of the private prison and detention center companies. 

Members of the legislative prison oversight committee who received contributions

State Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster

2017 – $2,500 from Geo Group

2017  $3,500 from Swatek, Howe & Ross, which represents Geo Group. 

State Sen. Clyde Chambliss Jr., R-Prattville

2018 – $1,500 from Geo Group. 

2018 – $1,000 from Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, which represents Geo Group. 

State Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro

2018 – $2,500 (Geo Group)

2018 – $2,000 from Bradley Arant Boult Cummings (represents Geo Group) 

2017 – $1,000 from Swatek, Howe & Ross, (Geo Group)

State Rep. Jim Hill, R-Moody

2018 – $2,000  from Geo Group

2017 – $1,000 from Swatek, Howe & Ross (Geo Group)

State Rep. Proncey Robertson, R-Mount Hope

2018 – $1,000 from Bradley Arant Boult Cummings (Geo Group)

2018 – $500 from Swatek, Howe & Ross (Geo Group)

State Sen. Dan Roberts, R-Mountain Brook

2018 – $1,000 from Windom, Galliher & Associates, (lobbies for Corrections Consultants)

2018 – $500 from The Jones Group (Geo Group) 

State Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa

2017 – $1,000 from Swatek, Howe & Ross (Geo Group)

 Other statewide politicians who received contributions in 2017,2018

Gov. Kay Ivey

2018 – $10,000  from Geo Group

2017 – $2,500 from CoreCivic  

U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R – Haleyville

2011, 2012 – $5,000 from Geo Group $7,500  from CoreCivic

2013 – $1,000 from CoreCivic

2014 – $1,000  from Geo Group

2015 – $2,500 from CoreCivic

2017,2018 – $5,500 from Geo Group    

State Sen. Del Marsh, R- Anniston

2017 and 2018 – $7,500 from Geo Group 

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa

2016 – $2,000 from Geo Group

Former state Attorney General Luther Strange, R

2017 – $2,000 from CoreCivic

Lt. Gov. William Ainsworth, R

2017,2018 – $4,000 from Geo Group

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby, R, Montgomery

2018 – $1,000 from Geo Group

2016 – $2,500 from CoreCivic

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks

2018 – $2,500 from Geo Group

State Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper

2018 – $1,500 from Geo Group

State Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette

2018 – $1,000 from Geo Group

State Rep. Mac Mccutcheon, R-Monrovia

2017 – $2,500 from Geo Group

State Rep. Corley Ellis, R-Columbiana

2018 – $1,000 from Geo Group

State Rep. Arnold Mooney III, R-Indian Springs

2018 – $1,000 from Geo Group

State Rep. William Poole, R-Tuscaloosa

2017, 2018 – $5,000 from Geo Group

Elaine Beech, D-Chatom (lost election)

2018 – $1,000 from Geo Group

State Rep. Prince Chestnut, D-Selma

2018 – $1,000 from Geo Group

State Rep. Artis McCampbell, D-Livingston

2018 – $1,000 from Geo Group

State Rep. Ralph Howard, D-Greensboro

2018 – $1,000 from Geo Group

State Rep. Matthew Friday, R- Montevallo

2017, 2018 – $2,500 from Geo Group

State Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee

2018 – $500 from Geo Group

State Rep. Paul Lee, R-Dothan

2018 – $1,000 from Geo Group

State Rep. Chris Sells, R-Greenville

2018 – $1,000 from Geo Group

State Rep. Mike Jones Jr.,R-Andalusia

2017 – $2,000 from Geo Group

State Rep. Steve Clouse, R-Ozark

2017, 2018 – $5,000 from Geo Group

State Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence

2018 – $2,500 from Geo Group

State Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur

2017 – $2,500 from Geo Group

State Sen. Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper

2018 – $2,500 from Geo Group

State Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro

2018 – $1,000 from Geo Group

State. Sen. Jim McClendon, R-Springville

2018 – $2,500 from Geo Group

State Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range

2018 – $1,000 from Geo Group

John Knight, D-Montgomery (Lost election)

$1,000 from Geo Group

State Sen. Thomas Whatley, R-Auburn

2018 – $2,000 from Geo Group

Geo Group in April 2017, bought the Alabama Therapeutic Education Facility in Columbiana, the purchase part of the company’s  $360 million purchase of Community Education Centers, a string of in-custody and reentry treatment centers that owned or managed 12,000 beds nationwide. That acquisition was expected to bring in $250 million annually for Geo Group. 

Two months earlier, in February 2017, then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescended the Obama administration’s 2016 order to reduce the federal government’s use of private prison companies. 

In October 2016, Geo Group hired as lobbyists two former Sessions’ aides, David Stewart and Ryan Robichaux, of the Birmingham-based law firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings. 

Geo Group has been an early and vigorous supporter of President Donald Trump. During the 2016 presidential election, Geo Group and a subsidiary gave a combined $500,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC and to the president’s inaugural committee, according to The Washington Post.  The paper also noted that Geo Group moved its annual leadership conference in 2017, at the Trump National Doral golf course in Florida. 

In January 2017, Geo Group began intake at its 780-bed Folkston ICE Processing Center in Georgia, which the company said it expected to expected to generate approximately $21 million in annual revenues.


In 2018, Geo Group paid $180,000 for lobbying to the Birmingham-based firm Bradley Arant Boult Cummings. The company spent a total of $1.5 million on lobbying in 2018. 

Geo Group has spent $800,000 on lobbying so far this year, paying Bradley Arant Boult Cummings $70,000. 

CoreCivic spent $1.2 million to lobby lawmakers in 2018, and to date this year, the company has spent $790,000.



Alabama Constable Association: Amendment 2 could defund constables statewide

Amendment 2, if approved, would delete language protecting how constables are funded statewide.

Eddie Burkhalter




If Amendment 2 on the Nov. 3 ballot is approved by Alabama voters, it could pave the way for an end to an office in Alabama with a history in the U.S. that dates back to the 17th century, according to the Alabama Constable Association. 

Chauncey Wood III, president of the Alabama Constables Association, reached by phone Monday, referred a reporter to a pending press release from the association. Jonathan Barbee, constable for Jefferson County and the association’s spokesman, said in the statement Monday that the association is concerned with several aspects of Amendment 2. 

If approved, the amendment would process numerous changes to the state’s judicial system, including a change that would allow Alabama Supreme Court, rather than the chief justice, to appoint the administrative director of courts.

It would also increase the Judicial Inquiry Commission from nine members to 11 and would allow the governor, rather than the lieutenant governor, to appoint a member of the Court of the Judiciary. The amendment would also prevent automatic disqualification from holding public offices for a judge solely because a complaint was filed with the Judiciary Inquiry Commission. Additionally, it would provide that a judge can be removed from office only by the Court of the Judiciary.

Amendment 2 would also “delete certain language relating to the position of constable holding more than one state office,” and Barbee, in his statement, explained that the amendment could defund Constables statewide if counties chose to do so. 

“Constables are not taxpayer-funded, they are largely voluntary Peace Officers,” Barbee said. “The fees they collect from their duties as Officers of the Courts allow them to support the expenses of the office such as vehicles, uniforms, and equipment. Amendment 2 also deletes the language protecting how Constables are paid by private court fees, leaving it in question for the appointed Administrator to decide.”

In Alabama, constables are elected peace officers and act in many of the same ways as do sheriff’s deputies. They’re able to make arrests, serve court papers and provide security for parades, funerals and the like. 

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Amendment 2 was sponsored by Alabama Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur. Orr, in a message to APR on Monday, said that the portion of the amendment dealing with constables was drafted by an Alabama Law Institute committee, headed at the time by the institute’s deputy director at the time, Clay Hornsby. Orr referred questions about the matter to Hornsby. 

David Kimberley, acting deputy director of the Alabama Legislative Services Agency’s Law Institute, told APR that he took over as acting deputy director since Hornsby’s departure on Aug. 1. 

If the amendment is approved by voters, Kimberley said that a county that wants to keep their constable can do so, but that the amendment is an acknowledgement that there are few constables left in the state and it’s approaching becoming “an archaic position or office.” 


“It was noted that only 24 out of the 67 counties currently have constables. Most of all the services of constables are duplicated sheriff’s deputies,” Kimberley said. “And it was essentially just an acknowledgement of what seemed to be a gradual phase out of this office in the state of Alabama.” 

Read Barbee’s full statement below: 

The Alabama Constables Association has joined other law enforcement and conservative groups in urging voters to vote “NO” on Amendment 2 in the general election on November 3rd.

Constable Jonathan Barbee, the Association’s Public Information Officer, said in a statement:

“We’re very concerned about several of the parts of Amendment 2, starting with the overall size and complexity of the Amendment. Typically, proposed constitutional amendments deal with only one or at most a few issues. Amendment 2 proposes SIX different changes to the State Judicial System, some of which drastically change the way we do things in Alabama.

“Amendment 2 could harm small communities by allowing county district courts to discontinue having municipal courts in cities with populations of less than 1,000.  Municipal courts are typically held at night, making it easier for working people to attend.  Without these small municipal courts, residents would have to spend most of a day at the county seat, losing a day of work or being forced to burn a vacation day for something that now is usually settled in an evening. It also indirectly attacks and defunds the Police departments of these towns, because their city courts are a significant source of revenue to help keep Officers on patrol. This part of Amendment 2 strikes at our small communities, drawing power to the larger county seats.

“Amendment 2 also removes the ability of the Legislature to impeach Judges, making the unelected, unaccountable to the people, Court of the Judiciary as the only body that can remove a Judge from the bench. Every citizen in Alabama should be concerned about this, because it effectively takes away their ability, acting through their elected representatives in the Legislature, to remove a bad Judge from their position.

“Amendment 2 allows Judges to continue working when complaints are filed against them with the Judicial Inquiry Commission.  We understand that automatically removing a Judge just because a complaint has been filed can lead to problems and abuses of the system, but these can be settled in a timely manner by the JIC. The alternative, which Amendment 2 will create, would allow Judges who need to be removed to continue hearing cases, and give them a legal basis for fighting their removal. We believe this has the potential for much more serious problems to arise within our courts.

“Amendment 2 could also defund Constables by removing our ability to serve as Constables while also working in another position with the State or County. Constables are not taxpayer-funded, they are largely voluntary Peace Officers. The fees they collect from their duties as Officers of the Courts allow them to support the expenses of the office such as vehicles, uniforms, and equipment. Amendment 2 also deletes the language protecting how Constables are paid by private court fees, leaving it in question for the appointed Administrator to decide. This could effectively defund the Office of Constable statewide, which removes the protection and services Constables provide in their communities at no cost to the taxpayers of Alabama. Over the last year, at least two Constables were responsible for saving several lives during medical emergencies, Constables in Jefferson County have been helping with traffic control and schools, and one Constable assisted with a large drug interdiction arrest. We feel this is an unnecessary and unwarranted attack on the oldest elected law enforcement position in the nation.

“There are other problems with this Amendment. Amendment 2 mandates that the entire Alabama Supreme Court, instead of the Chief Justice, appoint the Administrative Director of Courts. It would be a change from having a single elected, accountable official being responsible for this appointment to having it done by committee. Once the Administrator is appointed they could, in fact, serve a lifetime appointment.  Amendment #2 would also remove the ability of Alabama’s elected Lieutenant Governor to appoint one member of the Court of the Judiciary, giving that ability and more control to the Governor, who already appoints two members.  

“Many of these points are not easy to find, because the forces behind this Amendment have purposefully omitted them from the official documentation provided to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. If for no other reason than this deliberate obfuscation of the true contents of this Amendment, it should be voted down. The people of Alabama deserve better than this attempt by special interests to radically change how our state’s Judicial system works, mostly as a smokescreen to hide how they will use it to protect bad Judges, inconvenience small-town residents, and make citizens across the state less safe.

“We urge the voters of Alabama to vote ‘NO’ on Amendment 2.”

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Alabama parole officers seize firearms, ammunition and drugs in Enterprise

The seized evidence will be presented to a grand jury for further action and to authorities for potential federal charges.

Brandon Moseley




Officers of the Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles on Wednesday seized two semiautomatic weapons, ammunition and drugs from a convicted armed robber in an operation in Enterprise. One of the seized weapons was stolen.

Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles director Charlie Graddick praised officers Jared McPhaul and Troy Staley for their work.

“The first job every day of our officers is to protect public safety,” Graddick said. “These officers stopped a parolee with a violent history from potentially using illegal weapons to harm someone. We are all grateful for their hard work and dedication.”

The officers arrested parolee Jay Gatewood on a parole violation. Gatewood is out on parole after serving prison time for first-degree robbery and child abuse. Evidence of a possible parole violation was found after a search of Gatewood’s car.

The seized evidence will be presented to a grand jury for further action and to authorities for potential federal charges.

Parolees are required to report to parole officers periodically. Gatewood had failed to report for the month of October so McPhaul directed him to come to the Enterprise office to report. The officers had received a tip that Gatewood might be engaging in illegal activities.

When Gatewood arrived, the officers, acting on the tip, asked if there was anything improper in his vehicle. On questioning, Gatewood admitted to the officers that there was a gun in his car.

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McPhaul and Staley then searched the vehicle and found two 9 mm semiautomatic handguns. They also found three ammunition magazines, two of which were fully loaded, and a jar of marijuana with a digital scale.

The parole officers turned the evidence over to the Enterprise Police Department. McPhaul said that one of the guns had been reported stolen.

On March 17, 2008, Gatewood was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the armed robbery of a Dothan law office. He received three additional years for a child abuse conviction.


After serving just eight years of his sentence with the Alabama Department of Corrections, Gatewood was paroled in 2016. This was before Graddick was appointed the director of Pardons and Paroles. Gatewood has been supervised by parole officers since his release from prison.

For a convicted criminal to be in possession of firearms is a federal offense. That as well as the possession of illegal drugs and stolen property are all parole violations.

Gatewood, who has been jailed for the alleged parole violations, could potentially have his parole revoked for any one or more of these offenses. That will be determined in a future hearing.

Gatewood could potentially face new charges in the federal system for the gun charge. The stolen property and the marijuana could also be prosecuted in the state court system.

The possession of the digital scale is an indication that the marijuana was for other than personal use.

Depending on the amount of marijuana in the jar and any other evidence presented to the grand jury, Gatewood could potentially face a felony drug charge.

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Alabama inmate dies after inmate-on-inmate assault

Edwin Wells, 29, died on Oct. 10 from injuries during an apparent inmate-on-inmate assault at the Easterling Correctional Facility, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed on Tuesday. 

Eddie Burkhalter




A Prattville man became at least the 19th Alabama inmate to have died this year in a state prison of circumstances that were avoidable. 

Edwin Wells, 29, died on Oct. 10 from injuries during an apparent inmate-on-inmate assault at the Easterling Correctional Facility, the Alabama Department of Corrections confirmed on Tuesday. 

Wells death makes at least the 19th inmate to have died from either suicide, drug overdoses or homicide, according to records kept by the ACLU of Alabama’s Campaign for Smart Justice. His death is at least the seventh suspected homicide in state prisons this year. 

ADOC doesn’t typically publish information on an inmate death unless a reporter discovers the death through other means and requests the information, with the expectation of deaths of inmates who tested positive for COVID-19, which the department does regularly release. 

“The ADOC condemns all violence in its facilities, and the fatal actions taken against Wells by another inmate are being thoroughly investigated,” said ADOC spokeswoman Samantha Rose in a message to APR. “Wells’s exact cause of death is pending a full autopsy, and more information will be available upon the conclusion of the investigation into his death.”

A U.S. Department of Justice report in April 2019 found that Alabama’s overcrowded, understaffed prisons for men were likely in violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment and its prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, and that ADOC regularly failed to protect inmates from sexual and physical violence perpetrated by other inmates.

An expected followup report by the Department of Justice in July detailed why the federal government believes systemic use of excessive force within Alabama’s prisons for men violates the Eighth Amendment. 

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As of Tuesday, at least 29 state inmates and two prison workers have died after testing positive for COVID-19. There have been 453 confirmed coronavirus cases among inmates and 429 among prison staff as of Oct. 14, according to ADOC.

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28th Alabama inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19

Since the start of the pandemic, 441 Alabama inmates and 415 staff have tested positive for coronavirus.

Eddie Burkhalter




Johnny Dwight Terry on Oct. 8 became the 28th Alabama inmate to die after testing positive for COVID-19. 

Terry, 74, had multiple health conditions and was taken from Limestone Correctional Facility to a local hospital on Oct. 6 after exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus. He tested positive at the hospital where he remained until his death, the Alabama Department of Corrections said in a press release on Friday. 

Two additional inmates and four workers at Limestone prison also tested positive for COVID-19, according to ADOC, bringing the total number of inmates who have tested positive at the prison to 23 and infected staff to 26. 

Since the start of the pandemic, 441 Alabama inmates and 415 staff have tested positive for coronavirus. Two prison workers at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Woman died after testing positive for the disease. Of the state’s approximately 22,000 inmates, 2,834 had been tested for coronavirus as of Oct. 7, according to ADOC.

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